If you've never had an animal you loved with all of your heart, you might not understand. You might not feel your heart wrenching as you listen to Joe and Becky Mitchell talk about their sweet 16-year-old "Jillie Girl."
Born Sarah Jill Mitchell on the Waccamaw River, as her obituary reads, their beloved daughter was the center of the Mitchell's world.
"It's just hard to explain really what she meant to us because we both just loved her dearly," Becky said.
In her prime, she was a 25-pound jack russel-beagle mix with a long tail that could tell you a story. When cancer struck, she went to 16 pounds and sometimes she needed help eating and going to the bathroom. The Mitchell's tried everything, even though the veterinarian said there wasn't much that could be done to get rid of the cancer that had settled in Jill's urethra, except only slow it down, maybe.
Jill was a champ through the chemo, the radiation, the laser treatments and the seemingly desperate attempts to save her life that just didn't work.
On May 15th, the cancer sent the couple's sweet girl to sleep forever.
"I looked down and she wasn't breathing anymore," Joe Mitchell said. He was in a chair in the kitchen, Jill was in her favorite bed on the floor. "She just went to sleep."
Devastated, the couple had already planned how they would honor their precious love for Jill, one last time. They went to the Charlotte Observer with a printed obituary that Becky had written up.
"The woman said, I'm going to have to go ask about this," Becky said. Her request certainly wasn't common though. Ultimately, the newspaper honored it with all the bells and whistles.
"We were just so thrilled they had agreed to do it," Becky said, "With the pictures and everything."
The obituary was printed in the weekend papers and if you didn't happen to notice the pictures at the top of a dog brushing her own teeth and wearing a Christmas outfit, you'd think the article was about a person. "Jill attended church every Sunday at Chalmers Memorial AARP and Bible study on Wednesday nights." The article reads.
It went on to talk about her fondness for several local restaurants, her favorite being Chick-Fil-A. "She loved their chicken noodle soup," said Becky. The restaurant also played host to Jill's "Sweet 16" birthday party, complete with guests and a cake.
Reading the obituary might make you cry, but it will also make you smile. The Mitchells can hardly make it a few minutes without bursting into laughter over some silly story about their sweet Jillie Girl. And they hope that's the way it will always be. The memories, the laughter, the unbelievable love that won't ever go away.
Sarah Jill Mitchell would have turned 17 tomorrow.