When Your Heart Hurts

whenyourhearthurtsLast week, I attended The Gospel Coalition Conference in Indiana.  Just before leaving, our elderly family dog wasn’t acting quite right.  I had come to the conclusion she needed to go to the vet, woke up the next morning and she was fine.  Totally fine.

Called the vet, we established that since this was kind of a pattern for her not to worry about it yet.  However, if it happened again then she would need to be seen.

When I arrived back from Indiana, within a few days she was having another episode.  Made the appointment for the vet, at sixteen years old we needed to understand quality of life for her.  Would things get worse over time?  Was there something we were missing?  What type of prognosis were we looking at.  Our sweet old lady didn’t come home from that vets appointment.

I told my husband and mother that making such a decision would be easier if I knew that there was something more going on than just “getting old”.  The Lord was merciful to me in that after discussing her recent symptoms with the vet, and his observations at the office, that our old gal most likely had a brain tumor.  An educated guess, but what made the most sense.  When there was swelling, and the tumor pressed on the brain, this is when we would see the sudden rapid onset of symptoms.  When the swelling went down, that was the sudden relief of symptoms and return to normal.

In fact, over the last year she probably didn’t overcome two strokes as we all originally thought… but rather we were dealing with a pesky brain tumor and didn’t know it.  (And before the emails and comments start, the only way to know for sure was a MRI and she was too old to be safely sedated for that).    In all honesty, collectively we all knew the right decision to make in that unexpected moment.  Not one person in the family disagreed with making the decision to let her go peacefully.   The process went so incredibly quickly and peacefully, that we knew with all confidence that her old body had just run out of steam.  In her passing, she looked the most peaceful I had seen her in quite some time.  Mercy.

That moment was excruciating for us, our hearts broke into pieces over this amazing dog.  The entire vets office wept as she was loved by all of the staff.  They were tender and kind to us.  We are grateful.  Coming home was hard.  The next day was the hardest.   It’s crazy to me how much she was apart of our every day routine.  Every morning our younger dog would get out of bed, find her, check on her, and then head outside to use the restroom.  Every time we let our dogs out in the yard, we did it as a pair.  I remember holding back the little dog chiding him with “Ladies first, Cooper.”

When the mail man came to the door, and the barking started… instinctively I called out “back dogs” only to remember there was only one dog now.  Last night as my daughter went to bed, out of habit she called her dog down the hallway.  I cried with her at the realization.  When the kids were not in the house, it was incredibly quiet as we were missing the sound of nails on the tile floor.  I missed the sound of her howl that would end in a whistle.  She loved us, and we loved her.

But, all of this brought up some other emotions in our family that we didn’t expect.  My husband was amazed at the peace our dog was given, and struggled with memories of watching a parent waste away to cancer.  We all felt like this death was too soon, and my husband declared that he now has had enough with saying goodbye.  My kids had to face losses that they hadn’t quite dealt with when they were younger.

There were other hurts it brought up as well… and while I am trying not to dwell on them… I almost can’t help it.  Psalm 30:5 tells us that while we experience pain and sorrow at night, that joy comes in the morning.  We hope that when we wake up the next day, we have peace.  But that doesn’t always happen.  What I’ve begun to understand is that some nights are just really, really long.

Think about Barrow, Alaska. They live on the same twenty four hour day as the rest of the planet.  Yet, in winter sixty seven days will pass before they see sunlight.  That is a long period of darkness, a lot of anticipation to see the sun rise.  Once it does, Barrow will have eighty days of uninterrupted sunlight.

There are times where our sorrows will be gone in the morning, when the sun rises.  And some nights are just really, really, really long.  Longer when we want them to be, but the sun will rise.  Light will push back the darkness.  Joy will press upon sorrow.  We just need to trust in the Son.

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