Happy 18th Birthday, Lucy

Today, I carried a pang of sadness in my heart. You see, my old cat Lucy would have turned 18 today.

It even seems a little silly to me to carry on grieving for a common ordinary cat who passed away back in June. But Lucy was no common ordinary cat. At least not to me.

She was one of the few constants in my life in a time that saw geographical and career upheaval in which I relocated to Nashville from Memphis.

She was a quiet presence in my life through those good and bad days. She always ended up in my lap, curled up and either asleep or very near asleep. She usually wound up sleeping on the pillow next to mine, comforting me with her quaint little snore.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day, June 21, when she crossed the rainbow bridge.

I honestly don’t know if our pets will wind up in heaven, but I like to believe that she’ll be there on the other side of the rainbow bridge, waiting for me when it’s my turn to cross over.

In the meantime, I find that the sadness continues to give way to happy memories. I feel blessed for every day of the 17 years she was with me, even those painful last six days.

When she got sick that last time, I kept hoping that she could somehow manage to pull through one more time, but this time, it was not to be.

I know in my heart she tried her very best to stay, but in the end her furry little body finally failed her and she was just too weak to go on.

I have a rambunctious new kitten named Peanut, who is a tortie and full of curiosity and life. She could never take the place of Lucy, but she’s a channel through which my love for Lucy can flow.

So happy 18th birthday in heaven, my little Lucy. I’ll always love you can carry you in my heart forever.

 

Thoughts on Grief

“I don’t believe grief passes away. It has its time and place forever. More time is added to it; it becomes a story within a story” (W. Berry).

Don’t worry. No one I know has died lately.

I was just missing my old cat Lucy a bit today after seeing an old video of her and ran across this memory on Facebook.

How true it is.

Grief never passes away. You never completely get over the sadness.

I heard that grief and loss is somewhat like losing an arm or a leg. You don’t go back to the way you were before, but you can learn to live with a new normal.

Even though I haven’t been touched by grief lately, I know several who have. I also know that this life is fleeting, so grief is inevitable for any of us who haven’t completely closed off their hearts to love.

I also know that we serve a God who in Jesus is completely acquainted with grief. Isaiah called Him a Man of sorrows.

This same Jesus also took the sting out of grief and death when He burst out of the tomb on that Easter Sunday morning. Now those of us who belong to Jesus don’t have to grieve as those who have no hope. We have hope.

I still don’t know how it works with animals. I’d like to think there’s that rainbow bridge and I’ll see Lucy again one day. I do know that all the best parts of what we had will live on in my memory and what awaits in heaven will be far better than anything I could ever possibly imagine.

In the meantime, grief and loss are a part of life. Right now, I wish they were not. One day, I know for certain that they won’t be.

 

Grieving a Pet

“I will never laugh at anyone for grieving over a loved beast. I think God wants us to love Him more, not to love creatures (even animals) less. We love everything in one way too much (i.e., at the expense of our love for Him), but in another way we love everything too little.

No person, animal, flower, or even pebble has ever been loved too much—i.e., more than every one of God’s works deserves” (C. S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III).

I’m seeing a lot of people grieving over having to say a final goodbye to their beloved pets. Maybe it’s because I went through the same experience on June 21 when my Lucy crossed the rainbow bridge and took that piece of my heart with her.

Part of me still feels a little stupid for grieving over a cat when people have lost parents, siblings, and children. I don’t pretend to say that my losing a cat is anywhere close to the same as a parent having to bury a child. Still, a loss is a loss.

My heart goes out to all those who come home to silence. My prayers are with all of those who are missing the quiet presence of a pet who always seemed to be there when needed.

My own heart still hurts a little when I see videos of Lucy. I still wish that I could reach through the screen and grab her and pull her back to me, but I know that’s not really her. It’s only an image on a flat screen.

I do know that the present world is broken and that nothing works quite like it should. People die. Pets die. So much sadness and pain seem to be everywhere.

I also know that we who suffer loss and pain can better comfort others who go through the same. No one knows grief better than the grieving.

I further know that one day God will restore all creation to what it was originally designed to be. The last book of the Bible says He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and that there will be no more sorrow or pain or sickness or death or grief.

Until then, my prayers and thoughts are with you.

Sadness and Joy

“Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment. There is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our lives. It seems that there is no such thing as a clear-cut pure joy, but that even in the most happy moments of our existence we sense a tinge of sadness. In every satisfaction, there is an awareness of limitations. In every success, there is the fear of jealousy. Behind every smile, there is a tear. In every embrace, there is loneliness. In every friendship, distance. And in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness . . . But this intimate experience in which every bit of life is touched by a bit of death can point us beyond the limits of our existence. It can do so by making us look forward in expectation to the day when our hearts will be filled with perfect joy, a joy that no one shall take away from us” (Henri J.M. Nouwen, Making All Things New: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life).

It seems like lately there is so much sadness. So many people I know are grieving over loved ones who have passed away. So many are heartsick over those they love who have received bad news from the doctor in the form of a cancer diagnosis. So many who see those close to them slipping away from Alzheimer’s or some other kind of dementia.

The sadness can feel overwhelming at times.

But there’s joy, too.

It can be hard to find, like trying to catch a glimpse of the sun on a cloudy, rainy day, but it’s there.

Joy is knowing that God can take the worst imaginable circumstances and transform them into the best possible outcome. He can truly work all things together for good, including grief and loss.

Jesus endured willingly all the shame and sorrow of the cross for the joy set before Him. So you and I can endure the seemingly unendurable because we know that in the end, death and sadness and loss and pain will not have the last word.

Joy will. Love will. God will.

 

So Much Sadness

I found out today that a friend had to tell her son that his new puppy had died tragically. As I read the words, it was almost like someone punched me in the gut.

There’s so much sadness lately in the world. Too many people are having to say goodbye to loved ones, whether people or pets. Too many parents are having to bury their children. Too many children are watching their parents grow old and feeble.

Even the best moments are tinged with regret and sadness. It’s almost as if there was a longing inside of us that nothing in this world could satisfy. Many places and things and experiences come close but none of them quite fulfill the inner hunger.

The beauty of the gospel is that sadness is temporary. For us who believe, mourning may last for a night, but joy does come in the morning. We may go out weeping, but we will come back rejoicing.

There’s a lot of tragedy and evil in the world that I do not understand. I know that humanity and creation are fallen and the effects of that fall can be felt everywhere. What we see and hear and touch is not what was meant to be and is not what truly is or what will be.

That doesn’t discount the sadness, which at times is too deep for words and sometimes too deep for tears. The ultimate  hope of all who believe is that Jesus and the hope of the resurrection mean that sadness, loss, and death do not have the final word.

There’s nothing beautiful and noble that won’t be resurrected in the age to come and there’s no sorrow that can’t be redeemed and transformed into something glorious.

The hope of the gospel is that joy is victor and that Jesus has already overcome.

 

Grief

  
I know recently we’ve had several celebrities pass away. I personally know of several friends (mostly of my parents’ age) who have lost loved ones.

Conventional wisdom says that you should grieve for an appropriate time then move on with your life.

I say (and I can’t say that I can speak from firsthand experience) that you don’t get over a loss like that. How can you go back to functioning normally with half of your heart missing?

I’ve heard adjusting to the loss of a spouse is like learning to live without one of your limbs. It requires adapting to a new normal. Nothing will ever be like it was. You will never be like you were when you were two. The hurt will never completely go away. But neither will the memories.

I also know some people who have had to bury their children. I can’t even begin to imagine how you go on after experiencing a loss like that. I suppose that only the strength God gives and that peace that passes understanding are the only things that sustain people though the death of a son or a daughter.

I can say with certainty that Jesus was well acquainted with the pain of loss. Isaiah 53 describes Him as a Man Acquainted with Sorrow and Familiar with Grief.

Above all, God knows about loss. He was the one who sacrificed His only Son so that you and I might have forgiveness and healing and life. So that death would no longer have the final say ever again.

So don’t let anybody tell you that you have to stop grieving after a certain point. If you grieve, it’s only because you had something beautiful, if only for a little while, and that’s not easy to part with. Goodbyes should never be easy.

I know in the end that nothing good and true is ever really lost. Because of Jesus and Easter, we know that death and grief and loss are only temporary. It’s love and hope and joy that are eternal.

 

Looking for the Pause Button

Sometimes, I wish life had a remote control, like in that Adam Sandler movie where he fast-forwards through the boring parts of his life.

Only I wouldn’t be looking for the fast-forward button. I’d want to pause my life.

Today, I went to the funeral of a friend’s dad. I hadn’t seen or talked to him in a long time, but I remember him as being a quiet, gentle man who loved his God and his family and who also happened to own the first PC that I had ever seen.

I saw him lying in the coffin, looking like a perfect wax replica of a person. Then I remembered that I was looking not at the man, but at the shell. The moment he breathed his last he was instantly in the presence of Jesus, fully alive and healthy and happy.

I heard where two Briarcrest students who were set to embark on their senior year of high school died Friday at the hands of a drunk driver who had four DUIs in the last five years.

There’s too much sadness and loss in the world. Too many people had to say goodbye to the ones they loved, while more than that never got the chance.

I sense more than ever how precious and fleeting this life is. I understand more how important it is never to take anyone in your life for granted.

I’m thinking about the quote from the movie The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel– “There’s no present like the time.”

I recall a pastor who said that at best this life is like a clean bus station. You don’t set up a bedroom suite and move all your belongings into a Greyhound terminal, because it’s only a stop along the way toward your final destination.

This life is so brief because this is not our final destination. Heaven is. As much as I keep forgetting, as much as I want that pause button to work, I know that I can’t stop that second hand from racing clockwise toward another tomorrow.

I can only choose to live each moment fully and to be fully present to every person in every place at every moment that I’m given. I can know that in God’s economy nothing is ever wasted and the good a person does follows after them. Your legacy will far outlive you and in the end, it won’t be what you did for a living or who you knew, but who you were and what you did with what God gave you.

 

Love Will Remain

I read this about a week ago and kept it in my archives to share with you at some point. So here it is, without any added commentary from me:

“Hope and faith will both come to an end when we die. But love will remain. Love is eternal. Love comes from God and returns to God.  When we die, we will lose everything that life gave us except love. The love with which we lived our lives is the life of God within us. It is the divine, indestructible core of our being. This love not only will remain but will also bear fruit from generation to generation.

When we approach our deaths let us say to those we leave behind, ‘Don’t let your heart be troubled. The love of God that dwells in my heart will come to you and offer you consolation and comfort'” (Henri Nouwen).

 

 

Still Yet Another Good Reminder

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“Sorrow cannot steal our faith or even cause it to be lost; betrayal and loss steal our faith only when we refuse to remember, tell our stories, listen even as we tell them, and explore the meaning that God has woven into every one. If we want to grow in faith we must be open to listening to our own stories, perhaps familiar or forgotten, where we have not mined the rich deposit of God’s presence. With better eyes and ears we will sense how God has worked to redeem even our most tragic experiences” (Dan Allender, The Healing Path).

I don’t know why I gravitated to this quote. I’m not dealing with any kind of loss or grief or even sadness, yet these words spoke deeply to me.

Maybe because I realize lately how fragile life is and how easily those we love can slip away from us, how quickly those little babies grow up and leave home, how fleeting are the days.

The most tragic remembrance in the end will be how we took so many people for granted and left words of love and gratitude unspoken. In the end we will not treasure our trophies or promotions or rewards, but the relationships that made us come alive and be better people.

So all that from a quote I stole from someone on Facebook.