A little more than two years ago, I wrote a blog piece that resonated with a lot of readers. Its impact surprised me a little, but maybe it shouldn’t have. The piece was entitled Dogs and Tears, and it spoke to something I’ve come to find is one of the most difficult parts of the human experience — the grief over the loss of an beloved animal.
In it, I reflected on a letter I tried to write months earlier to a friend who had to end the suffering of his family’s 16-year old dog a few days before Christmas, and how “I tried to offer — as best I could — some sense of awareness that his mourning and suffering over an animal was as real and as raw as any grief that any human suffers in this life.”
Tonight, I’m writing that letter to myself.
At the very beginning of this blog in September 2012, I included a picture of Sandy with
the caption “Best dog on the planet.” A few hours ago, that dog left this planet — and a big-ass gaping hole in the hearts of my adult son (who has known her since he was eight), and his mother (with whom my son and the memory of Sandy will now forever live), and me.
Early this morning, I was in a devotion group of fellow faithful strugglers when the question was posed, “What’s the one question you want to have answered?” It took me an entire second (or less) to come up with the one at the very top: Is there — in fact — a heaven? I have asked that question before in this blog: “Will, one day, I wrap my arms once again around my father and my mother, and say hello to an older brother I never really knew, who at age 10 left me and my sister and a shocked small community that loved him so? And will he be an older brother, or a little boy?” Who, on earth, knows?
And now, I add another beloved creature of God to that short list of folks I most want to meet whenever, wherever, however the Divine Force of Love in this universe deems it timely and appropriate.
Shortly after that question was posed this morning, I joined in a small Thursday morning Eucharist in my home parish. At the breakfast that followed, I received a most precious gift. The priest who was there happened to mention that our church (thanks to the suggestion of a scout who wanted to do his Eagle project) was constructing a small memorial garden for beloved pets. Families could use this sacred space to place the ashes of family members with four legs, wings or fins, and whom they “love but see no longer.” To aid parishioners in the use of such a pet memorial garden, one of our clergy members had composed a small liturgy that families and friends could use when those ashes are committed. I gladly share a portion of the rough draft here.
I especially embrace the closing prayers. I say them this evening with a sense of profound gratitude (and a stream of unashamed tears running down my face) for 14 1/2 blessed, wonderful years sharing the presence of the most gently and generously and affectionately loving creature I have ever known:
Most merciful God, we return to you Sandy “Soccersox”, a creature of your own making and your gift into our lives. We thank you for her faithfulness in our joys and sorrows; and we bless you for the time during which you entrusted her into our care. We now entrust her back to your loving care. Amen.
God our Maker, from the beginning you have permitted us, the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, to name our brother and sister creatures of earth, sea, and sky. Thank you that the name of Sandy. will always bring us smiles and glad memories.
Christ, the great Shepherd, you teach us to tend and care lovingly for one another. We give thanks for how Sandy cared for and tended to us.
Holy Spirit and Comforter, abide with us in our sadness and sustain us in the hope that we may yet again rejoice in the companionship of Sandy, in the world to come. Amen.