I count it a real GIFT that you read Embrace the Grace. Truly! That you would take time out of your busy schedule to scan my ponderings and musings is something I don't take lightly. Because of feeling it's an honor to write for your consideration, I usually pray over my topic for each post.
Today's topic was immediately clear to me.
For fourteen years, this little shih tzu has been my faithful companion. Gracie Marie earned many other names for herself like "Gracie the Goat Dog" and "Aggravating Mutt" and even "Little Pill." These were the result of both her stubborn personality and her propensity to eat whatever might present itself. She vacumed everything that fell from the children's highchair trays and anything dropped during meal prep as well as dirty socks. Such a discerning palette!
Her most heralded acheivement was accomplished during a visit with John and Joy while Frank and I were away on vacation. After everyone had gone upstairs to bed, Gracie managed to climb up on their dining room table. She then proceeded to unzip the children's backpacks (resting in the center of the table) and forage through their snack bags which had been carefully prepared for the purpose of saving time the next morning. My, oh my! What chaos ensued when her deed was discovered. Needless to say, Gracie was not invited back to the Schrecks after that.
In spite of her bad habits and frustrating ways, we all loved her but no one as much as me. Gracie felt compelled to accompany me everywhere. Her little bed fit perfectly under the chair on my side of our bed. She had her own spot (squeezed in beside me)in my prayer chair until she couldn't jump up any longer. Many mornings, I just picked her up. If I was cleaning, she moved from room to room with me. These next two pictures made me laugh because they highlight how attentive she's been. I often send pictures of outfits to Kristin for a quick critique. Notice who is sitting beside me in both.
You can imagine the pain we felt when she started failing two weeks after Christmas. Our vet worked with us but we knew the inevitable was fast approaching. At 1 in the morning on January 24th, Frank and I rushed her to an emergency clinic. Her loyal heart was just giving out and so we held her and talked to her while the kind vet ended her suffering. We wept like children and told only a few people beyond family at church later that morning. The pain was just too fresh; too intense. We buried her little body in a spot she loved beside our house. (And yes, I'm crying again as I write this. She was such a faithful companion.)
Fast forward to this past Saturday when we ran into a couple from our church at a local store. We stopped to chat and greeted Ipod their dog (who was riding in the shopping cart) right along with them. The first bit of conversation was the news they were facing about their much loved companion, Ipod. "The vet says he has cancer. We've brought him home to love on but he won't be with us much longer, we know."
Frank and I were immmediately able to share our concern in ways that affirmed their pain. Our own ache had created a deep well in our hearts from which we drew compassion for the purpose of comforting our friends. It was a tender moment in the middle of that busy store. Later, the wife sent a text thanking us for understanding their hurt.
As I pondered this morning I realized that's the ultimate purpose of pain in all our lives. Any pain I experience should create in me a sensitivity to the pain of others. Compassion and empathy both stem from having walked through similar hurt and trials. Once healing begins for me, I'm able to comfort others with the same comfort I've received. Notice, it's not for the purpose of drawing attention to myself or my loss but rather for wrapping my arms around another and saying honestly, "Your pain matters to me. I care."
Frank often says God never wastes anything. And in this instance, I can even see where pain could be described as "good" if I allow it to generate tenderness for others around me. Does that speak to your heart, too? I certainly hope so.
Gracie Marie's unconditional love was a gift from my Heavenly Father and I'm grateful. Her absence has left me with a big void but if the pain of her loss can be used to make me more tender toward others, then it's good and I'll be grateful in the growing. Thanks for pondering with me today.
How about you? Was there a special pet in your life that you had to release? Were there any lessons you gleaned that we could all apply? Please share with us in the comment section.