To my Dingo (March 22, 2001 – July 21, 2018)

Heartbreak looks like

A wagging tail stilled

Old bones creaking slower

Stinky leavings across the floor

A childhood home without its bark

 

Heartbreak feels like

Lamb’s ears

With the soft, smooth echoings

Of a beloved friend’s

 

Heartbreak tastes like

Little brown hamburger treats

Given away to a puppy

That chomps happily in ignorance

 

Heartbreak smells like

A comforting, pungent, indescribable scent

Washed away from the carpets

And tossed out with the matted bed

 

Heartbreak sounds like

A 4-year-old’s delighted laughter

A 13-year-old’s shrill whistles

A 17-year-old’s deep sobs

And a 21-year-old’s teary recollections of

Gracey Rose,

The dog with the

Dirty nose.

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I know it may seem silly to some to be deeply grieving a pet’s passing, but as a 21-year-old with a 17-year-old dog, I don’t consciously remember a time without Gracey. My childhood home has always been a place Gracey just ‘is,’ which made it one of my favorite parts of returning home throughout college. She has been a constant, loving presence to go home to, especially throughout the numerous lows in life.

It was not at all easy to swallow the fact that she would be put down. I always knew the day of her passing would come, but I never imagined it would be for anything but a natural reason. Past images of her entering the vet’s office shaking in fear came back to me when I heard the news, and while I knew she wouldn’t be aware of the scenario, that certainly broke my heart.

Anyone who knows me a decent amount knew how much I loved my puppy (who I later called a dingo, and then a thestral shortly before her passing, as she lost weight). I made an album for her on my phone, and in the past 2 years alone, I took over 60 pictures and videos of her (which is saying something considering I’m gone the majority of the year). Although corny, we were great friends and companions, and my favorite part of our companionship was when I’d sing at the top of my voice and she’d look at me with one ear pulled back like ‘I’m judging you so hard right now.’

Although she didn’t see all of it, Gracey sure saw most of my life. She was my buddy sophomore year of high school when I didn’t have any close friends. I crawled around on the floor in excessive amounts of dog hair just to play ball and rub her belly. I’d chase her around outside and never catch up to her, because I was out of shape and she was part-Greyhound. She always howled at the ambulances, too, like she was praying for people.

Gracey—you’re welcome. I spoiled you. I let you on my bed countless times, I fed you billions of treats, and I always got you excited about your Christmas stocking.

Some more of my favorite moments:

⁃ When I’d lie down and cry, she’d nuzzle her head in my face

⁃ We played hide and seek

⁃ We played hide and seek with her treats

⁃ Snuggle times and reading aloud to her (she loved Harry Potter, I’m convinced)

⁃ Dancing—holding onto her front paws and letting her walk on her hind legs

Lasts are sad, and potentially moreso when you’re aware that they are lasts… Over the past few days I had my last return home with my furry pal hanging around, my last walk with her, a final treat and human food spoiling, a last kiss, and the last pets of a furry texture well-known to calm my anxiety.

It’s really heartbreaking for me. It’s a long-lasting companion. It’s my favorite smell. It’s my most eager greeter after a long semester. It’s symbolically the majority of my life, all taken away at the same time.

Every time you let a person or an animal into your life you’re guaranteed heartbreak. Maybe they end your relationship, maybe they move away, many of them die… but we attach so much of ourselves to every living thing we encounter. That’s scary. But it’s definitely a good thing, not to be closed off. We were given each other, brother or dog, for a reason. We help each other through the shattered waiting room for as long as we can until it’s our time to pass on. And then we get to cheer on the others.

It’s okay to grieve and be sad about the loss of a pet. I know firsthand that I can attach just as much meaning to a dog as to a person.

And when you do so, it is such a blessing. It means you’re not afraid to love and to love well. I think that’s something our Creator wants for us very much.

Thank you to my parents for buying such a hyper, beautiful, and joyful dog. She was found on a farm, and who knew $15 would bring so much happiness and tears into my life.

Gracey Rose, I love you. Rest well, Snuggle Muffin. What a wise old dog with lots of personality.

God, do all dogs go to heaven? Because they sure exemplify your unconditional love well.

~Annah

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Our Grieving World

Some days are sadder than others when you’ve lost someone. Perhaps it’s because I’m older or perhaps it’s because his passing was seemingly undeserved, but Luke’s death has stuck with me, not to mention his family and closest friends, so closely these past few months. It’s confusing trying to figure out how to process our losses, isn’t it?

Sometimes you’re sad, sometimes you’re mad, sometimes you’re resigned to the fact, sometimes it’s very unsettling. Recently I’ve just been deeply disappointed I didn’t get to know Luke more. In all honesty, part of me feels really guilty for this sadness and disappointment, because I didn’t know him as well as so many others did. If I’m upset, I stop and grieve, because those that knew him far more than I must be indescribably upset. On the other hand I can’t help but wonder if this disappointment is flowing out of selfishness. Is this hurt justified or not?

But to those that knew Luke, if you’re anything like me, the main reason his passing is upsetting is likely because he truly was a joyful, loving soul. One could only imagine if he had been given a longer life the even larger impact he could’ve had on others. But then I think about how much joy and life was packed into those 17 years, and the tremendous story his life spoke into those around him in such a short amount of time. It’s incredibly inspiring. Who wouldn’t wish to know someone like that?

Sometimes I can’t help but thank the God I believe in that Luke was able to bless everyone for a whole 17 years. His parents and brothers witnessed a giggling, courageous, witty, faithful soul for 17 years. What a blessing. And the God I believe in said I’m going to take all you have, Luke—17 years—and I’m going to use you for something great. People are going to flock to you and cry over you because of your steadfast faithfulness. You’re going to teach your loved ones how to be strong in the face of adversity.

So that’s some more of my processing and a small snippet of the feelings amongst Luke’s loved ones over these past couple months. I take what I’m feeling and I take the unimaginable pain of his family and friends, and multiply it until it’s unbearable.

Why?

Because countless people worldwide are experiencing a similar pain, and sometimes I think it’s easy to be desensitized to the effects. Whether loved ones lost to cancer or loved ones lost to terrorism, it hurts; oh it hurts to consider our grieving world. Perhaps now more than ever we grieve we are sorrowful and we need a rock to lean into. We are broken and struggling to hold on. We yearn for love and laughter because we are sodamaged by brokenness.

This is our chance to let others know we are here and we understand their pain. We have all experienced pain in a multitude of capacities, and yet, we’re too often self-consumed with our own lives to stop and ask others how they’re doing. Every time we undergo pain and brokenness, we are allowed the opportunity to open our arms to others in similar situations and help them through their own. Not because we have all the answers and can eradicate the pain… but because we are made for community and it makes life a lot more bearable when you can confide in others.

~Annah

The Beauty and Heartbreak of Death

Ever since I heard of my dear family friend, Luke’s, passing yesterday afternoon I have been on the go. My mom told me, I cried a bit and prayed with some of my housemates, then I headed right to work where the stress of three classes’ homework for today hit me and the rest of the night was spent trying my best to focus on reading and writing, whilst juggling student inquiries at my secretarial job, a scattered brain, and waves of emotion. I woke up today and had my back-to-back classes and now I’m finally done and am free for a long weekend (I’m incredibly blessed to have Fridays off of class this semester).

So now that I am free, I have time to process and write this blog. Time to really consider and bring to God whatever the heck it is I’m feeling. Luke battled a rare and aggressive cancer for two long and hard years, so naturally it is relieving to know his pain and battle is over. I think about Luke’s passing and I’m struck by the thought, “Wow, God, thank you for allowing us this opportunity to choose you in our short lifetimes. Thank you, Father, that because of Jesus we now get to come home to You when we die.” I think of the blessings, I want to dwell on the blessings and the good, I’m surrounded by lovely souls who keep reminding me of the good.

But honestly, God, I’m still incredibly sad. There are still tears streaming down my face, even though I know the ultimate outcome is beyond just “good,” beyond ideal, beyond the best we can possibly think of. Luke is home and Luke is whole in the place he truly belongs and now can exist in his true untainted being, the way God intended him to be. What could be better than that? But our world is broken and Luke’s death is directly correlated to the pain and the brokenness that you and I have created, and that breaks my heart. The outcome is ultimately positive and I know deep down it is good, but as one incredible friend alluded to in a simple text message, because I still live in the realm of brokenness, my heart is broken, I experience brokenness and am not invincible to the pain, therefore, sadness is completely natural. We only see dimly in the mirror right now, so it’s going to hurt.

I’m sure everyone reading this has experienced some kind of loss or deep sorrow. The hardest part is that you cannot plan for it and everything else happening in your life at the time always seems to become trivial in a way. I’ve been to three funerals in my lifetime, the last one being at least seven years ago. I remember my grandpa’s funeral, because even though I had cried for my grandma’s, my grandpa’s funeral was when I truly understood the weight of the situation. I distinctly recall standing with my family and watching his casket being lowered into the ground and that’s when the floodgates opened. He was really gone, he was not coming back, and for now at least, we were permanently separated. I recognized the finality of death.

It hurts knowing Luke was only 17. It hurts knowing his parents and brothers have to spend the rest of their earthly lives without their youngest son and brother. It hurts that people cannot firsthand experience the joy, love, and witty jokes Luke had to offer the world. It hurts.

But there’s also comfort and that comfort lies in eternity, Luke’s peace, who God is, and God’s promises, which all eternally outlast every possible pain you can think of in this scenario.

Loss is hard but it’s also a great reminder of what is  most important: people. That is why God’s biggest mission for us is to go out and make disciples of every nation. If there is one thing you should care about other than me, God implies, it is people. And not just your best friend or your mom, but every person. Get to know as many people as possible, because they are made in God’s image too, despite their opinions and their lifestyle choices. Love on every person you meet, which I know Luke was incredibly skilled at, and don’t forget that every breath is a second chance (as Switchfoot sings) and a gift.

Luke had to undergo more than I could ever imagine over the last two years and that was really difficult for everyone to watch, but

Luke battled on the winning side.

And ultimately, all I can say is “Hallelujah, what a savior.”

As they say on Earth, rest in peace, Luke. Not that you need the well wishes. I know God is so ecstatic to have you home. Party it up.

~Annah