Suzette Martinez Standring: The magical mojo of listening

Suzette Martinez Standring More Content Now

Mojo, my sweet 17-year-old dog, passed away in her sleep. Two days later, Marina O’Shea arrived for a long-ago planned visit. Some might say what bad timing for a houseguest, but God had other ideas.

Our friendship traces back to 1973 in San Francisco, and yes, there was the comfort of being with an old friend. However, Marina lives out her unwavering against-the-odds, let’s-watch-what-the-divine-can-do faith in the power of possibility. She often says, “Don’t you think that was a sign?”

The day before Mojo passed away, Marina had a premonition that she later shared, “When I was packing, Mojo popped into my mind and it was like she was telling me she wouldn’t be around when I got here, but I dismissed it as nonsense.”

Marina’s presence was not about distraction, or about sidelining sorrow. Insight is her gift, and she’s so good at it because she listens. Modern society is preoccupied and interrupts. For many, listening means waiting for the pause, ready to jump in and start talking. It actually felt odd for me to speak at length without getting cut off.

We shared all the yet-unheard stories between us spanning well over a decade, and Marina and I picked up where we last left off as if only hours and not years had passed between our in-person hugs.

The life of a pet marks major milestones, and while filling Marina in, I realized Mojo was the dog of my happy years; a solid remarriage and new life in Milton, Massachusetts, the later relocation of my daughter and son-in-law from California to live near us, the births of two granddaughters, my baptism into faith, and my stumbling-start-to-fruition career as a writer. Mojo was part of it all, and when I imagine it through doggy eyes, it’s been a tail-up and prancing passing of years.

Back in 2001 when we first adopted Mojo from a shelter, a black beagle/spaniel mix, I wanted to name her Millie, but David suggested, “How about Mojo because she’s our little bit of black magic.” At her passing, she had aged to be more salt than pepper but she never lost her magical charm.

Now it was fitting that Marina, a reader of signs, had shown up. I’m on the brink of turning 60, and as a surprise, Marina had created two birthday albums of 1800 photos that covered my life from 2008 to present.

“Where did you get all these pictures?” I asked.

“I downloaded them from Facebook and from photos you had sent to me over the years.”

The best of the best moments were all here, designed with love, creativity and jeepers, lots and lots of hours on Marina’s part. So many episodes that I had nearly forgotten! There was Mojo right in the thick of things, my happy little dog.

There were creative touches like favorite icons or lines from poems I loves.

“How did you know?” I asked.

“I listen!” she said.

The full sweep of conversation and precious pictures proved a healing tonic. Marina is fond of saying, “You just have to stay present.” Magic happens when one feels truly heard.

Email Suzette Standring at She is the author of the Amazon bestseller “The Art of Opinion Writing: Insider Secrets from Top Op-Ed Columnists” and the award-winning “The Art of Column Writing.”