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If you knew it was today, how would you spend it?

I had to put our dog to rest on Monday.  She battled for a few months from bone cancer and fought valiantly, even after losing use of one of her front legs.  Our over 12 year old Rottweiler drug her way through every day adjusting to her ever changing body.

I called our vet office Monday morning and fought through the tears to schedule her final visit.

I arrived home from work a few hours before that visit and decided we would spend some of those hours outside enjoying the amazingly beautiful day, allowing her to experience for what I knew was the last time:  the feeling of the sun, the smells in the air, sounds to perk up to, and to lay with her sister dog, her inseparable companion, by her side.

She soaked it all in.

She has a peace about her as she laid back and absorbed it all, a seemingly knowing peace.

A half hour before we were scheduled to arrive at the vet appointment, I carefully placed her in the passenger seat of my jeep, opened the windows, helped her position facing out the window and we took a last ride.

I kept glancing over to see her with her head out, ears flapping, sniffing, snorting, slobbering and not missing a moment of the experience.  Once in awhile she’d look over at me as if to see if I was doing the same thing.

When you’re enjoying a moment don’t you hope everyone around you is as well?

Did she know it was her last ride?  Could she sense the heaviness in my heart?

Or is it simply that dogs always appreciate every moment more thoroughly than we do?  I already know for a fact that dogs love better, and more unconditionally than we do.  Why wouldn’t they be a lesson to us on how to love and live better?

Today I scripted her last day and her last hours and I was the one who held her when she passed.

Would she have chosen the same last activities?

Would she have chosen me to be the one that held her when she passed?

The beauty of a dog is the way they love.  She looked at me throughout the day with love and gratitude.  She leaned in.  She kissed.  She laid her head down on my legs.  She gave me her infamous “joker smile”.  She never appeared to be disappointed, judgmental, angry, or irritated with me in any way.  But she never did on any other day, why would she do differently on her last day.

She practiced a true, consistent, steady, faithful, trusting love until her last breath.

She trusted me as we laid on the floor in a place that she wasn’t familiar with, but was calm as I stayed calm.

She looked up at me to see if I was ok then laid her head down for the last time resting it on my lap.

I rubbed her head and watched her be at peace.

I couldn’t help but wonder how she might’ve written this last page of her story, and how I would write mine if I could know.

What would I choose to do?  Who would I want my last visitors to be?  Who would I want to be with me when I close my eyes?  How beautifully, peacefully and trustingly would I accept it?

As has been the case for the past few months I have learned much from my dying dog, and I am better for it.

I plan to not waste the lessons she taught to me, and to honor her memory doing just as she demonstrated: absorbing each moment to the fullest as if I may not experience it again; appreciating those and what is around me more; and trusting, living and loving unconditionally leaving a memory of peace behind me as I travel through each day until my last day.

If we could live and love more like our dogs do, wouldn’t the world be a much better place?





Wishing you peace,
Terri & Bubbles ❤

Terri O’Neill-Borders





10 lessons I am learning from my dying dog

About a month ago during what I thought would be a quick vet visit to tell us that one of my son’s two dogs (which somehow I have formally adopted) had a pulled leg muscle, arthritis, or a sore paw, became a moment when the vet compassionately came into the room, after examining the Xrays, and delivered the painful news that Bubbles had bone cancer. My husband and I were numb, both of our eyes tinkled a bit as we drove home. Since that day we have not only savored every moment, but appreciated every loving lesson that Bubbles has been teaching us as the number of her days dwindle. I have learned much from books, movies, the Bible, and from those who have lived far longer than I, however, the most impactful lessons in my life have come as I have walked through the last days with a beating heart that I have loved.


  • Trust and lean on those who love and care for you-

I watched Bubbles allow myself, and the vet, push and prod on her most painful leg and she patiently allowed us to do so. Before the pain medicine, or when it hasn’t kicked in, I have ached when she has come up to be and laid her head on my leg letting me know that it simply just hurts.


  • Learn to adapt

Bubbles has gone from an able bodied 75 pound 4 legged dog to a crippled 3 legged, hobbling, pain-filled being. The first couple of days I had to help her by carrying her, after that she had to learn to survive. She learned to get herself out the door and to the front lawn. She had to adapt to a restricted area of living in the house and outside, not able to access the back yard due to steps. She has done nothing but master, conquer, and kick butt on learning how to manage this life as it is now.


  • When the pain gets too great, don’t hesitate to rest

When she just cannot stand anymore she will rest. I know she would love to run, explore, and play but for now she understands that her limitations are greater than her desire to be who she was. She takes a break to rest for the next moment.


  • Don’t stop showing love to those who love you

She may not be able to run to the door or show the physical appreciation she used to, but by golly she surely communicates her love in every way. Upon seeing my husband or my son, every part of her body that can wiggle, wag, and lean does so in a wholehearted loving manner. No one can ever say she didn’t love through the pain.


  • Don’t worry

Bubbles cannot get to where she wants sometimes. She has yelped and panted; she has laid her head on my leg and communicated unequivocally that she is in pain, however she has never shown stress or worry. No sign of stress from this beautiful spirit showing me that I can toughen up a bit more.


  • Enjoy every moment

The other day we carried Bubbles down into the back yard to enjoy some time while we worked in the garden. She visited her dog friend to the north yard and her dog friend to the south yard. She enjoyed a visit from our neighbors. She laid down and rested when she tired of standing and she soaked in the yard that she used to rule. She completely lived in the moment.


  • Take time to soak it all in

I have watched Bubbles just stand in place and put her nose in the air to smell what is going on in our “hood”. She observes, smells, explores to her limits and soaks in every minute trying not to miss any gift from her creator.


  • Don’t avoid the opportunity to comfort one another

We have two dogs. One came a few years after Bubbles had already claimed dominance to the home, yet Chance slid into place as “sister”. During these past few weeks I have watched Chance slide into place right next to her “sister” in a position of support and comfort giving Bubbles nothing but love and compassion as only an unconditionally loving heart can.


  • When you need help, let someone help you

There are times myself, my husband, or my son, have had to pick up this large beast and gently carry her to where she needs or wants to be and she cooperates. She doesn’t battle us or wrestle, she concedes that she needs the help and gratefully accepts it. When I laid her down on the carpet one of these times she put her head down but kept her tail wagging in a grateful and sincere thank you.


  • No matter what the current situation is…unconditionally love ❤

Bubbles does not know that her days are numbered. She knows her body is different. She knows her surroundings have been limited. She understands pain more than she ever has. The desire to eat or play has diminished. She tolerates the meds through the day. She never snaps, growls, refuses to cooperate, or shows difficulty in behavior in any way, rather she expresses what she always has: an unconditional, unquestioning, puppy eyed love to all of us who are trying to make her last days as comfortable and full of compassion as we possibly can. We ache and we know, but she simply loves without hesitation and fear.


My hope is that the lessons she has been and is teaching me will remain with me for the rest of my days helping me to understand how to appreciate every day, and every person who loves me, and to love unequivocally and unconditionally no matter what the situation I find myself in. Until we part, I will enjoy my lessons that she is teaching me and the love she is sharing with me.

May we all be more like her and bring a bit of tail wagging, kisses, and unconditional love to each our homes no matter what the day and situation brings.

Wishing you peace,

Terri O’Neill-Borders


Hope and Friendship Foundation
721 Hickory St, Lemont, IL  60439

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Proverbs 31: 8-9

The value of a child’s smile

So often I am accused of being “too busy”. I have tried to communicate that there is never a time that I am “too busy” for anyone, yet I choose to “be busy”. I speak of sitting around and watching soaps and eating bon bons but I have yet to experience that very un-stimulating time consumption.

I truly do believe that God planted my feet in this corner of the world for a purpose and I choose to fully commit to it. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t whine and complain about it (ask my husband who has to hear me audibly voice my frustrations with this calling). As Jacob did, I wrestle and argue with God every single day and He often is very quiet at those junctions. I figure at those moments He has just about had enough of me and is trying to decide whether to knock me down with a lightening bolt, a 70 mile an hour flat line wind, or the gas from my pit bull. I get it. I am difficult. I am not smiling through the 11 hour work days onto the additional time of the outreaches and events feeling like there is nothing better to do. There is: a beach, a chair and a beverage that whets my whistle at the sunset.

So that is where God and I end our days. At the beginning of the day, before my feet his the floor I offer prayers of thanks for another day and ask Him to put my hands, feet and heart to work for His purpose. I am eager, I am willing and I am feeling able. That’s at 5am. Then 7:30am comes and I am feeling that I’m too old for these shoes and need to inquire about the retirement plan.

This brings me to last night.

Or to 11 years ago.

Eleven years ago I decided to act on a need I had become aware of. I heard of too many kids here in our corner of the world who were not able to be treated to a birthday party that celebrated their wonderful existence and being. There would be no possible way to celebrate each and every one of their Birthdays, however, we could celebrate their “UnBirthday”!!! Every one of us has 1 birthday and 364 “UnBirthdays”. We should be celebrating life each and every day of the year!

I want you to know that last night we celebrated the 11th Annual Hope and Friendship UnBirthday Party and once again it truly was that. It was each and every one of our UnBirthdays and NOT one of our Birthdays. ELEVEN YEARS of that coincidence makes it truly not a coincidence in my notebook.

Partnering with Calvary Church in Lemont for each and all of the celebrations has been a true treat and blessing. The kids are treated to food, cake/cupcakes, games, crafts, a Kid’s Shop (where they get to make their own “goodie bag” of personal need and fun items donated by YOU), and for the past 6 years they also have enjoyed the gift of a bouncy activity. Last night was a bouncy obstacle course that was almost worn out from kids running from one end to the other, laughing, bouncing, climbing, and enjoying the bejeebers out of it. The smiles were ear to ear and from beginning to end the whole night long.

Inside custom bracelets were being made, faces and arms were being painted, kids were “shopping” for goodies, food was being enjoyed, cupcakes were being decorated, superhero masks were being made and attention, love and compassion was being poured out from all of us “bigger kids” who were blessed to be present on this night. We were able to be privileged to hear the laughter, receive the “thank you’s” and see the smiles. Oh what a privilege it was to see the smiles.  Oh what a blessing it is to have persons who donate food, items and funds, toward this outreach to make those smiles appear.

When I arrived home 15 ½ hours from the time I left home in the morning I was not feeling frustrated, irritated, overworked or underpaid after having put in a full day of work at two jobs and then onto this event to cap the day off.  Rather I was being blessed to be given the overtime pay of 20+ kid’s smiles who were so excited to be celebrated on this special night. I drove some of the kids home and knew that a few were going back to unsettled homes with financial, emotional or physical trials hanging heavy over the heads of their parents and though I can not change that situation, for one night I could change the disposition and spirit of a child who needed to feel loved and celebrated, and that is what we did.

So the next time I hear someone refer to me as “too busy” I will not be insulted, I will be reminded that I am not here to occupy my time with anything but smiles. If I we can put our hands, feet and hearts to task on creating outreaches and events that put smiles on the faces on children and adults who are in deep and painful chapters of their lives, than isn’t that better than any other way we can consume an hour or a few hours of our day? After another night of seeing those priceless “smile” paychecks I will say a definite YES and I look forward to the next opportunity to do it again.

Visit or email me for more opportunities to put your hands, feet and hearts to work and be paid plentifully in smiles!!!!

Wishing you peace, love and smiles,

Terri O’Neill-Borders




So much learned, and we’ve only just begun.

Just stepping into summer Hope and Friendship outreaches and I already have been enriched with more lessons than hours in the day.

I have learned that though one would think that when more teens than adults show up for a Mission Stay don’t think you won’t have the most incredibly productive workday.

I have learned that though some of us adults think we have it rough, some of our young people have it worse.

I have learned that a simple hug offered is often returned with a greater strength and love from one that is smaller than you.

I have learned that the compassion, energy, enthusiasm of young people fires me up to do more, listen better, and love with an untainted and youthful heart.

I have learned that some have so much often miss how something much less can be wholeheartedly enjoyed at the same value, if not more.

I have heard the most sincere and truest “thank you” from the tiniest of voices and had it reverberate throughout my ears and heart.

I have learned that what seems like a simple hands and feet act of kindness can be the answer to a prayer for one who would otherwise not be able to do it.

I have learned that allowing God to move you into the place, time, and action that He needs to be present in can be exhausting; frustrating; time, fund and heart consuming; but the most perfect life changing, enriching place, time and action that you would have missed out on had you held tightly onto the pen.

I have learned that my passion “to be” does not override my humanness, and though I felt invincible when my young friends united with me to conquer the weed forest for our 101 year old friend’s house, my weakness to poison ivy is raring it’s ugly head to remind me that sometimes I simply must step back and watch, learn, and soak in the lessons.

Truth be told….

I’d conquer that weed forest all over again with them because we felt a bond and happiness as we dove into that act of compassion.

Isn’t that what strengthens the heart and spirit? Bonding. Doing good. Laughing. Loving, unconditionally.

Just a week in and I already know this is going to be the best summer of my life, and of the history of Hope and Friendship.

I look forward to joining with more hands and feet, but skipping the weed forest and poison ivy next time.

May peace, love and purpose be yours my friend,


Highs and lows. Why does God allow this roller coaster??

Tonight is one of my most favorite nights of the year. Tonight I get to stand in the back ground and watch my son award high school seniors with a scholarship in the memory of his grandfather, Martin J. O’Neill, Sr. for whom Hope and Friendship Foundation was created for. Tonight I get to watch one of my dreams become reality. All of the other outreaches require so much work and time and sweat and sometimes blood (I move too fast and that often causes “incidents”) and tears. This one is one that I get to sit back and watch, teary eyed, and enjoy. Giving assistance to those who are choosing to continue on in their education or training to pave a path for what they are called to do is a humbling experience.

Tonight my heart smiled…..and then…..

Before the night began I received a call from a friend who was reaching out from a dark place. “I have no one to talk to, I need to talk. I’m in a very dark place.” Though I didn’t want to I offered to stop the fun of this feeling and join him tonight and just be the ears he so needed. We set up for tomorrow and I pushed it back just a bit so I could still experience the moment. Then as we were enjoying the company of others who were bequeathing scholarships and enjoying the jubilant feeling of granting assistance someone told me of the explosion in Manchester at a concert and the death toll. I felt the gut blow. A crisis was happening as we were laughing and enjoying the night. How is that fair?

As we joke, enjoy the moment and I soak in a brief opportunity to be with my a part of my heart others were being notified that a part of their heart has passed.

How is this in God’s plan?

As I watched my son on the stage talking about his grandfather and knowing that in 4 days I will watch him cross a stage accepting his doctorate I couldn’t feel carefree, someone was struggling within my corner of the world and so many were being notified of the death of their loved one in a corner of the world just over the ocean. It was a heavy cloud and I was heart torn.

Trying to rejoice in the moment I was watching, while anticipating the meeting of the ache of the one who was feeling the darkness was closing in right here, and thinking of the parents who were being greeted at the door with hopefully a Chaplain or Officer who would deliver the most painful news they could ever imagine entering their ears and heart.

Why does one person get to rejoice at victory while another suffers with loss?

Why does a prayer get answered for one when another is denied?

Why does the pain and trials seem to find their way into the same path over and over again when another household seems to have the golden horseshoe over their threshold?

Tonight I again presented that in my prayer and again I felt the need to pray the Serenity Prayer.

It was the prayer that led my father out of alcoholism.

It was a prayer that strengthened me through my divorce as I joined my father walking with him through his 35 month battle with matastic melanoma.

It is a prayer I have leaned on when I thought I would financially, physically, emotionally and/or spiritually fail and fall.

Right now I am leaning on it.

I can not change the happenings but I can change my thinking. It is not God who causes this pain. We live in a world with evil. We live in a world that has persons who chose to be selfish, heartless, consciousness lacking, fearless of the law of man or God, craving power and their face on the screen of our TV, computer or phone, we live in a world of pain and suffering. Where is God in this?

God is in the moments we allow Him in.

God is in the hearts that allow Him in.

God is in the lives that allow Him to be in.

God is in the pain that we are feeling.

God cries with us and rejoices with us.

God is here and now only when we allow Him to be, yet even for those people there is pain yet there is a comfort in knowing that our life is not to hit our peak here it is to travel the path so that we can peak there….

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

Courage to change the things I can

And the Wisdom to know the difference.

Are you praying for strength to accept what you cannot change?

Are you changing what you can change?

Do you know what you truly have control of and what you need to let go of?

When you lose your loved one it is hard to say “Ok God they are yours now, I’ll hope to see them later.” But my friend, the comfort in the pain is that they are not suffering and in pain in this world because they are in the world we are working towards. That leaves us aching but them in comfort and in the arms of God. Do we wish them back here or find minute comfort knowing they are there?

I wish my Dad was here.

So many days I have shed tears just wishing I could hear his voice on the phone or be the recipient of his hug. I’ve wished for his advice and guidance and have truly felt lost without it at times.

I only find comfort knowing that I believe he is not of this world anymore and of another that is so much better than I can only imagine.

He finished his race faster than I wanted him to but I will rejoice in his finish not wallow in my loss.

Only faith walks me to that peace.

Only faith helps me understand why some are mourning tonight while I was beaming of mother pride.

I felt guilty.

I wish I could be there putting my arms around a parent as they heard the painful words.

I don’t have control of that, but I do have control of putting myself in the chair tomorrow in front of someone who told me that they are in the dark.

I do have control of trying to be a conduit of words of hope, love and light, and if I chose to not put myself in that chair shame on me because I would’ve passed on what and who God put in my path.

If we could bring more light to the darkness my friends every single time we are presented with the opportunity, there would not be so much darkness.

If we spread more love than judgment love would be more prevalent.

Every person that commits these acts of darkness has left the light, hope and love of the One that understands suffering and being alone.

The one thing we have control of is to allow ourselves to bring light to every dark struggle that crosses our paths.

Do you know a person that needs compassion, a word of hope, a hug, or simply an ear? Have they reached out to you? Have you, would you, could you make the time for them?

I encourage you my friend to bring the light to those dark places.

The change in the world will only happen when we step forward to bring light to the darkness.

Be strengthened knowing you are “sent” to do this.

Be humbled, grateful and know you are blessed.

Be the light in someone’s darkness.

Be the change the world needs.


The world needs you now.

When “Happy Mother’s Day” makes your heart ache.

Hours to go, wishing it was less.

One day that feels like a month in time.

You have avoided people as much as possible because you dread that interaction that leads to the painful extension of “Happy Mother’s Day”; followed by the next dagger “What are you doing today?”

To those mothers who have buried their child.

To those mothers who never even received the chance to show their child what an amazing mother they were to be having lost them at, or shortly after birth.

To those who have stood at the graveside of their mother.

To those mothers who spent the day alone today, not by choice.

To those sons and daughters who wish they had the chance to spend time today with their mother.

To those mothers who children who are caught in the web of addiction.

To those mothers who truly need to hear that they are not a failure and that the heart they laid out for their child and has been wounded can and hopefully soon will be healed.

To those mothers who do not have a partner to help with the child raising, the running around, the household chores, the strain of balancing disciplinarian and nurturer, who simply feel tapped out and alone.

To those mothers whose husbands always made the day such a special day of celebration, but now you walk through this day alone as a mother and a widow.

To those fathers who have lost their partner, soul mate, mother to their children and now painfully ache on this day knowing if you could you would make it 24 hours of everything special for the one you wish you had one more day with.

To those who simply ache today and have agonizingly pulled yourself through most of it but need strength to crawl through the last few hours.

Know you are not alone.

Please know that all of the well wishers, the posts you see, the people out celebrating, the gifts and flowers being bought are not surrounding you to cause you pain they are such bittersweet reminders of a day in the past, of what has been loved and lost and what is now only in your memory and heart.

No, it is not fair.

Yes it is painful.

However, you are one of many, contrary to your belief. Here within your corner of the world there are others who are looking at the clock just like you wishing you could will it forward faster.

Before you knew pain, He knew pain and so did she. Mary watched her baby boy grow, walk, run, speak, teach, lead and rise to The One that was chosen to lead a nation. Then she watched him unjustly convicted, suffer, abused and killed.

They put His limp and lifeless body in her arms and she uncontrollably sobbed. Her body throbbed with pain holding the one that held her heart.

I know you know that emotion.   I feel you understand that pain.

He understands your agony and so does His mother.

Know you are in the hearts, thoughts, and arms of those who understand with empathy not just sympathy.

Close your eyes and feel the love that can only come from those who have walked your walk.

Open your heart to know that days like this are extremely painful reminders of a love that you were blessed to have, hold and feel.

May that love, and the love of the One who created you, fill your aching heart and help you through the remainder of this day.

May these words let you know that you are not the only one who has struggled through this day.

Know you are loved my friend and if you need to be reminded that you are not being punished, you are not a failure, you were not created to fail, to suffer or to spend life grieving; I will passionately and emphatically remind you of that with a call, a text, an email, or over a cup of green tea.

Like the pain, today will pass. My prayer is that you are stronger for having loved as only a parent, partner, or child could have loved that special one that was blessed to you. Hold on to what has made you better for that love, let go of what the expectation of the day that this world communicates and know that you are in the eyes, arms and prayers of those above you and those around you that understand how hard this day was.

May you heart beat stronger and your passion be greater feeling that comfort and may you awake tomorrow still feeling that love.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33

“It is time to teach society on how to be empathetic with people grieving.”
~ Nathalie Himmelrich

Wishing you peace,

Terri O’Neill-Borders

Hope and Friendship Foundation
721 Hickory St, Lemont, IL  60439

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Proverbs 31: 8-9

Easter Sunday…..He’s alive but the scars remain

Did Jesus need the stone rolled away to escape the tomb? Absolutely not.

Did the stone need to be rolled away for those to believe to enter and see that He had risen? Yes, otherwise there would have been doubts.

Jesus was healed of the extensive wounds he suffered from the crown of thorns, the whipping, the tremendous abuse that left Him bloody and scarred but the 5 wounds remained. Couldn’t God cure those? Of course He could have. Yet why leave the scars?

“Now Thomas (also known as Didymus one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”~ John 20:24-29

The scars were left for us to remember, to respect and to believe that the resurrection happened and that from these scars ours would be forgiven.

What scars do you carry? How many nights have you pleaded for Him to remove them or spare you from them? How many times has He assured you that you are loved as is and with your scars and that He will walk with you through the chapters that have laid them on you?

Those that have survived abuse. Those that have abused themselves. Those that have been born with deformities. Those that carry emotional and spiritual scars that weigh so heavy on the body and spirit. He understands. He appreciates the intense abuse and pain that come from scars and wanted you to understand that, therefore, He refused to have His wiped away.

May you feel the comfort, the strength and the companionship of the One who understands the importance and the validation of scars. You are beautiful. You are victorious. You are wonderfully made and loved as is and forevermore. Know that those scars you carry are a part of the formation and foundation of the beautiful you, and those scars are an opportunity to make you stronger in body, spirit and faith.

Do not hide your scars. Do as the One who created and loves you unconditionally and fully did, show your scars for all to see. Know you are stronger for them and stronger with Him walking with you both of you wounded, scarred but wholly, fully, and beautifully stronger for the walk you have walked and the scars you courageously and triumphantly bear.

What do you have in common with the One whom we hope to be with at the end of our days? Scars. Touch them, feel strengthened by surviving them, and know His heart breaks for yours and His arms wrap around you understanding how painful it was to earn His for you.

Wishing you peace,

Terri O’Neill-Borders

Hope and Friendship Foundation
721 Hickory St, Lemont, IL  60439

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”