I go to sit on the couch and hesitate for a moment, checking to make sure I don’t sit on the cat.
He’s been gone for almost 9 months.
I cut up carrots and toss a few onto the floor for the beagle.
She’s been gone for about 6 months.
I step out of the bathroom and make sure not to trip over my faithful puppy who always waits for me.
He’s been gone 10 days.
It’s been a season of loss, of hearts breaking into a million pieces, of letting go and moving on. Hard decisions and rivers of tears.
But it’s also been a season of being loved. For each loss, I’ve been blanketed by love from near and far. I’ve received “just checking in to say I’m thinking of you” emails, texts, and messages, and I have sat across from many who have been a safe place for me cry.
I have been held.
This week as I uttered the words, “I’m struggling. I’m just so sad,” I cried for the loss of my sweet almost-15-year-old puppy and for all the losses of the last year. But I also cried because I could…cry. I cried because each time the emotions were too strong to smile through, I was in a safe place with beautiful people who love me, where I could be vulnerable, where I could openly feel my sadness. I was held by God, by family and friends who let agape love shine through, holding me physically while granting me unspoken permission to just grieve.
I let myself be held.
Almost 15 years ago, a sweet little puppy chose me from his animal shelter cage. He was supposed to be for my husband. I didn’t want a dog. I wasn’t open to loving another pet because previous losses had been too much. But that puppy chose me and made me his, and as I held him for the very first time, carefully pulling ticks from his tiny, emaciated body, he trusted me. He never fought me, never whimpered. He trusted me to take care of him. And through the years, he continued to trust me, to follow my every move, no matter how many times I tripped over him. He trusted that I never meant him harm, that I adored him even when I was annoyed, loved him even when I was frustrated.
Just 10 days ago, he allowed me to hold him one last time as we said goodbye. He trusted me to do what was right for him, and as I held his still small, emaciated body, as I felt his life leave that scruffy, beat up shell, I believe he loved me until his last breath. I held him and said goodbye, and then I wept for him, alone, held by God.
My puppy loved me with a God-like love. My sweet friends reminded me of this as I described why I miss him so much, writing down the words I said about him. God loved me through this puppy. An unconditional, no performance needed, constant, forgiving, accepting love. Oh, what a gift each of our pets are.
I came home from saying goodbye that day to find our husky in full panic. She ran through the house, panting, unable to control herself. I sat on the floor with her and held her, loving her, whispering calming words. Again yesterday, after a long day alone, she panicked, and I came home to destructive behavior, and instead of getting angry, I held her. She whimpered and I spoke love to her, reminding her how much we care for her.
I want to love her and the world like my puppy loved me. I want to be patient and kind and constant and forgiving. I want to love like Jesus, and hold others like I have been held. More, I want to silence the ugliness of the world, of the busy, of constant input and output of performance, and just be…just love…just live…just be authentically, vulnerably me.
Thank you for the love… Thank you for holding me.
Red (almost 17) and Sadee (approximately 14)
Challenge (almost 15)