Over the past few days we have watched as this one whose name means 'joy' slowly slips away; as does the joy that has been ours to have her in our home. The cancer has taken its toll and we know it's time to let her go so that she does not suffer in the end, but it just feels sad; another loss. The anticipation of what tomorrow will bring leaves a knot in my stomach.
I know that we have been blessed to have this beautiful dog in our lives for the past five years and in a sense we have had some 'bonus time' for the past year and half, but that only makes saying goodbye that much harder. Call it irrational and sentimental if you wish, but we come to love those with whom we share life so deeply that we are going to hurt when they leave us. Right now, it hurts.
I'm sure there is more that she will teach me as we walk this path and reflect again on all she has taught me about life and faith, but right now those clever analogies escape me. Tonight I am holding to a truth that has been so meaningful in the past; the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Tonight I pray for peace; tomorrow I pray for the courage to let go graciously, giving thanks for the season we shared together.
Late Friday afternoon we said 'goodbye' to Chara. I puttered around the yard all afternoon with Chara close by; she no longer had the energy to do much more than lie under her favourite tree, but to the end she was able to receive our love. Those hours allowed me to experience a settled-ness in my spirit, confirming it was time to let her go. The prayer for God's peace was answered; I was able to thank God for the time we shared with her and although not easy, to make the hard choice to say goodbye. In the end Janice cradled her head as she slipped into the sleep of death. She is free from the cancer that had destroyed her body, but now the house feels much more empty.
Knowing heaven will be a place of beauty and great joy, I can't help but wonder if one day this beautiful creature of God will greet me again!
Six years ago I wrote a blog entry when we had to say goodbye to our dog Shady. Putting words to paper was a means to express the thoughts of my heart. I did not know at the time that such thoughts would resonate deeply with many others. 'Goodbye Shady' speaks to all who have ever lost a much-loved family pet, to anyone who has lost a loved one; it speaks about life and faith. To date the page has been accessed over 100,000 times and I continue to receive messages from dog-lovers I have never met.
When we brought Chara into our home and into our lives five years ago, I continued to write, often expressing the lessons I was learning as we journeyed with this beautiful black lab mix who quickly stole our hearts. I know not everyone can relate to stories about a dog, but we can all relate to times when the path becomes difficult and the empty feeling of missing one we have loved.
Over the past few days, so many little things continue to remind me she's gone. We walk in the door and expect her to be waiting to greet us, her tail thumping in excitement--'you're home'. I pulled the car into the garage yesterday and started unloading and for a split second I thought, 'I need to let Chara out', but quickly remembered, I don't have to do that any more. I walk up the stairs to go to bed and I want to call for her, to let her out one last time, but she's not there. Most nights she would come back in, sit for a treat and then disappear as I turned off the lights and headed to the bedroom. I would always find her on the bed and we'd go through the same drill...'you can't sleep there, that's my spot'. She would reluctantly make some space, hang out with us for a little bit and then jump down, almost as if to make sure all is well before falling asleep. The house feels a little less secure at night. She'd be back in the morning, jumping up on the bed to remind us it was time to get up. Our mornings are much quieter now.
I've tried to distract myself, but Chara was my distraction. She would often come in a lay by my desk when I was working and if I needed a break, she was there to share the moment. We would often sit on the back deck, my place of refuge, where I could sit quietly and think and talk to my Lord, with Chara by my side. When I work around the yard, one of my favorite things to do, she was right there with me. Don Moen wrote a song entitled, I Just Want to Be Where You Are; that was Chara! As I write these words, Janice is at work and the house feels empty. Quiet is good for getting my work done, but I'm missing my four-legged friend.
In all of this I am reminded things are not as they should be, we live in a fallen world, but one day that will all change. The word of God promises the renewal of all things (Matthew 19:28). The Bible speaks of a time when there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4). On that day we won't have to say 'goodbye' and as you've heard me say so very often, what a day...what a day that will be!