Sorrow, Joy, and Losing a Beloved Doggy
We buried our dog Melody Pond (Mels) last Thursday. She wandered a great distance from our house at camp to the highway, where she was struck by a vehicle. I have never been a fur-baby person. I resisted adopting a dog from the beginning, not wanting a pet or its many inconveniences. As a puppy, Mels was cute but annoying. As she aged, she proved to be book-smart but street-dumb. She had a taste for technology, eating multiple television remotes, Bluetooth headsets, and two keyless entry fobs for our 2008 Nissan Altima. Since that car had the push-to-start feature, we had to have it towed to the dealership for them to program new $250 key.
Nevertheless, we knew we would be sad whenever she passed, and we knew it would be sooner than later. If you knew Mels, or you know us, we have regaled you with stories of her near-death experiences. She was an escape artist, breaking out of fenced areas and often finding trouble, like the time she ran under an electric fence into a cow pasture. She once ate nearly a pound of dark chocolate, for which we had to induce vomiting. She slid down a waterfall and somehow managed to avoid landing on the jagged rocks at the bottom. She was viciously attacked by a dog at the dog park, only to be rescued a stranger diving in and tackling the aggressor like Andy Dwyer on Fairway Frank. I had already parted with her many times, with many tears, only to have her emerge like *TWD spoiler incoming* Glen from beneath the dumpster. She remained in our lives just long enough to begin to think she might make it to the end.
She was sweet, albeit annoying. You may have heard me threaten to give her away, but you probably knew all along I was all talk. Mels was a good dog. She was not the bravest dog, but she would protect Ellie. She was not the smartest, but she knew how to get home. She was hyper, but only because she loved people so much. She may have been dumb, but she was our dummy.
Sorrow is Not the Enemy of Joy
One of my hesitations about getting a dog in the first place was the probability of outliving it. Even if you do everything right, which we didn’t, you will likely bury every pet you cherish. I had already rehearsed my speech to Ellie, updating it mentally as they both aged, but thinking I would feel terrible about introducing the concept of death to a young child. I was introduced to the permeance of it when my mom died of cancer. Unfortunately, many children experience the anguish of losing a parent, sibling, or friend, which is of course far worse than losing a dog. Still, isn’t there enough death in life to avoid adding inevitable sorrow?
I have cried twice in my life. Once when I was seven and I was hit by a school bus, and then again when I heard that Li’l Sebastian passed. His memory will live on as today we light a fire that will burn on for eternity.
I feel like I should say here before I move on, there are many sorrows greater than losing a pet. I do not mean to minimize or trivialize yours. I made the ugly-cry-face emoji on Thursday in real life, but I have had much deeper, longer lasting hurts, and I know you likely have as well. Sorrow is a consequence of evil in God’s good world, but redemption is a consequence of God defeating evil in his good world.
“He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
and made me cower in ashes;
17 my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
18 so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the Lord.”
19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
2 Corinthians 3:16-18:
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
For brevity’s sake, I do not want to spend too many more words proving that the context of those passages is all similarly this: when God’s people suffer, they really suffer, but their sorrow is turned to joy even in the midst of their trials. It seems safe to me to apply that so: do not avoid something otherwise lovely, for fear it may lead to sorrow, for if you trust God that grief will only lead to redemptive joy.