Several more tears were added to my heavenly bottle over the past couple of days as we bid farewell to my dad's dog of 13 years. We knew the time would soon come. He had been aging rapidly over the past couple of years, and arthritis had set in, making it difficult for him to walk. Nevertheless, I wasn't prepared for my dad's phone call yesterday when he questioned me about the process of putting the dog to sleep. Buried memories of my own dog's passing six years ago mingled with the grief I felt for poor Cocoa and my dad during this difficult time. But the worst of it was when my dad blurted, "I don't want any more pets. I'm done with this." My heart broke, as did my dam of tears. I knew that statement of frustration was my dad's way of trying to deal with his grief, and I simply couldn't bear it. It's hard to comfort someone who's grieving when you can't quit crying yourself, you know?
I received another phone call a few hours ago, confirming that Cocoa was gone. My dad's voice caught in his throat as he told me of his last few minutes with his dear friend and how he couldn't stay with Cocoa until the end because it was simply too painful. I completely understand. For some of us, dogs are not just pets. They are part of the family, and their passing is just as heart-wrenching as that of our two-legged loved ones. And in the initial moments of grief, it's difficult to face the possibility of ever loving again. It's too painful. It hurts far too much. The loss is just too great. And so, we do the very thing my dad did when he got home from the vet. He packed up everything that was Cocoa's and stored it in the building where it would be out of sight until someone (probably me) would take it away. I remember doing the same thing when my sweet Tessa died. I couldn't bear to look at her things, for every time I did, it tore my heart in two.
Forgive me for rambling on a bit today. I guess I'm more out of sorts than I realized. Lack of sleep and many tears will do that to a body. Nevertheless, I do have a few words to leave with you. I assure you there is a point to my rambling. . . I think.
First off, isn't it good to know that we serve a God who cares about our sorrow? He grieves when we grieve. He cries when we're sad, and He understands the pain we're going through. Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and, while I'm sure there are those who will roll their eyes at the idea of mourning a dog, I can rest assured that God will do no such thing. He understands how I feel and knows the depth of my grief even better than I do. And in the midst of dark times, that knowledge is such a comfort to me.
I also want to urge you to spend time with those you love. Tell them how much you love and appreciate them. Make them feel special. This life is as a vapor, and we never know when our loved ones will be taken from us. Don't wait until it's too late to appreciate just how much they mean to you.
And lastly, be careful not to refrain from loving out of a fear of losing. When I lost Tessa, I felt the same way my dad does now. I didn't want another dog. The problem was that we already had another dog, Tippy, and she wasn't used to being alone. She mourned Tessa's loss as much or more than I did. So, after much discussion and hesitation, we decided that the best thing for Tippy would be to get another dog. I had no idea, at the time, that it would be the best thing for me too. Mitch was the perfect addition to our family, and while he has never taken Tessa's place, he has certainly helped me to heal. How much joy and healing would I have missed out on had I not been willing to risk loving again? I'm not saying it's easy, and sometimes it takes a little time, but fear should never be the determining factor for any decision. That's not the way God intended it to be.
Thank you for letting me "vent" a little and for taking the time to grieve with me. If you think of it, will you please say a prayer for my dad during this difficult time of loss? We would both appreciate it.