2017-02-17 - Released
While volunteering several years ago, I read a fantastic book, called On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kulber-Ross. Perhaps you’re thinking to yourself “how could a book on death and dying be a fantastic book?” Well, it helped me grapple with my emotions from losses, at the time I began volunteering there, as well as other times in my life, starting when I was about five years old. One particular part of the book discussed stages of emotion possible, as we pass through a time of loss. You may have heard of some or all of them at one time or another. They are described this way: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The book shared these stages as an explanation for how we cope with loss, and not being hard and fast rules. Also, the order in which these feelings might transpire could vary depending on each person. Unfortunately, grief doesn’t run a designed course, and loss takes on different forms. I recall my Mom describing the fact that my parent’s marriage of nineteen years (including a separation year) dissolving was a loss that was grieved just as much as if a person had passed away. She shared with me that after it was final she went outside and sat on a bench and cried. The fact was that an entire portion of her life was effectively legally ended by the stroke of a pen. What it means to a person in their heart cannot be removed with a signature or eraser in the mind’s memory bank. If only it were that easy.
My most recent loss was a dear family Miniature Dachshund named Ms. Barbie. She made it to her eighteenth birthday last February, and proceeded to outlive the last of her three puppies, for about six weeks before it was her time to go came this past August. I swore I would never have another dog again, because in two years, three of the four we started with had gone on to God’s animal kingdom, and my kids are both very close to being completely on their own now, too. So there have been a lot of big changes in the last few years, and the decline of the pups was challenging and painful for me. Six months since then, I found myself thinking about how my life has been filled with joy surpassing the losses, and I began to miss the spark of life brought by animals around the house. It’s clearly one of the ways God wired me to feel more alive and in tune with him. I have had three hamsters, five dogs of my own, and a childhood dog for over ten years - plus taking care of and having been entrusted with the lives of two others of my Mom's dogs. All of that furry friend fun has happened since I was six years old, and started not coincidentally just after my first personal loss, my eight year old cousin. I then thought about how our first dog came from the ASPCA in Pittsburgh, and what a joy that mixed Terrier was to my mother. She picked the one at the shelter who was looking most likely to not be chosen, and gave him a big name after we took him home. She named him Hannibal after Hannibal Barca, Punic military General from Carthage, very often considered one of the greatest military commanders in history, according to Wikipedia. So she named her scrawny little puppy after a military commander, and as a grown dog, he would race down our hall and jump into your lap as if he were still the seven pounds when we brought him home - rather than the fifty he flourished to be. He was such fun and a mess, but life was more lifelike with him in it. As I pondered through those memories last week it occurred to me my grief was leveling off to acceptance and it’s time I give myself permission to be released. I guess I thought if they were with me about twenty years of my life, that I needed to wait at least a year. Well, I began grieving with the first notice of my three remaining pups declining, and that was over two years ago. It’s amazing how we can truly understand that grief has no time constraints, but then we end up using it against ourselves, and we stop living. Life is for the living. At the appropriate time, only known by each of us in our situations, it’s quite alright to begin again. I’m preparing to adopt another furry canine baby or young adult from the local ASPCA. I can see my Mom smiling.
Jesus was saddened by the passing of his friend Lazarus. He was sad for Lazarus’ sister, Mary, as well. God’s promise to us is that death has no hold on us, when we have everlasting life with him. When that time comes, we will have no more tears. Although we shed them now at various times on our journey, we have the hope of our risen Savior taking away any eternal punishment. Until such time, we need to go share his love and allow ourselves to have the joy he gives us now, until we are with Him in the everlasting. It makes God smile, too, when we enjoy gifts he gives us. Allow God to help you find release into Him.
“Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!” (John 11:30-36)
All scripture references from King James Version (KJV) unless otherwise noted