Live With Eternal Perspective Podcast Episode 077 - Easing Heartache
Welcome to the Terri Hitt – Live With Eternal Perspective Podcast
Episode #077 – Easing Heartache
Thank you for entrusting and investing your precious time with me to grow in Jesus together. I am blessed to be back with you to discuss more ways to live with eternal perspective.
Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those mourning, for they will be comforted.”
June 18th and June 21st were beyond difficult days in our family. Grief hit our home and the impact was hard.
Before I married a dog-loving man I never would have imagined the depth of relationship a person could have with a household pet. My parents never allowed us to have an inside dog as I was growing up, and an outside dog, although still cared for, is certainly not the same as a loving furry family member who knows everything about you, follows you everywhere inside the house, and adores you despite whether you're made-up or in need of a bath. Your schedule is known and if you deviate in any way, they may offer a question with a slight tilt of their head, but all-in-all, accept the change as long as you are still with them and they have the honor of remaining in your presence.
Since marrying a man who has always had to have a pet in our house, I have slowly become accustomed to an ever-present dog. While we have had absolutely amazing pets over the years, and some that took a giant piece of my heart with them after they passed, I have never been as affected by the death of a pet as I was last month. On June 18th we lost Max, our ten year old, exquisitely handsome Golden Retriever. While Max truly loved every family member deeply, he was the first family dog that chose me as his favorite. He was a mama's boy to the core. Whenever I petted him, he purred his favor and satisfaction like a cat and slapped me with his clumsy giant paws, proving his devotion as he tagged me as his. Max followed me everywhere, becoming my four-legged shadow who was always up in an instant and ready to go whenever and wherever I was headed.
Max often carried a football around the house. Never mind that he could not catch! Whatever we tossed his way would land awkwardly on the floor beside or behind our boy, but rarely in his mouth. He was my baby, my friend, my warm cuddle-buddy, and my blessing, for time with him always brought a smile and warmth to my heart.
On June 21st, a few days after losing Max, we lost his sister, our thirteen year old Miniature Schnauzer, Misty. Just as Max loved everyone, but chose one favorite to shadow, Misty loved each of us well, yet claimed my husband as her special family member. We used to laugh at the adoration in her eyes whenever she looked at him. We called Misty our "little girl," because she always seemed to envy Marissa as they grew up together. It seemed she wanted to be a person, not a canine, and the depth of desire and love in her eyes for all of us seemed to confirm our thoughts. Misty loved music and whenever we would sing to her, she would stop whatever she was doing and come to sit in front of us so that we would continue a special personal concert designed for her. Our "little girl" also grew up attending family worship and prayer time with us, and she and Marissa used to race each other for a seat next to me when they were younger. In her mature years, Misty still came to school with us and almost never missed Bible or prayer time. My youngest, Brooklyn loved feeding and brushing the dogs and spending quiet time with them as she slept near both of them. Marissa and I loved the way Misty always raced upstairs when she knew I was headed to Marissa's room to do something with her. Misty knew she would get to sit with us and receive a special time of cuddles and hugs that Max would never know about. After losing Max, we spent three days trying to save Misty, gently feeding her baby food from our fingertips, gently wrapping cool washcloths on her paws in an attempt to reduce her fever, and carrying her outside to enjoy the breezy sunshine weather when she could no longer walk.
I never imagined we would lose both of our precious babies within days of each other. The emergency veterinarian told us it was a rarity to have a family come in with two critically ill dogs at the same time. We aren't sure what happened. Suddenly both of our furry family members became very sick. Misty had declined the previous summer and after we urgently prayed for a miracle for her health last year, we received one. Misty had seemed healthier, stronger, and going on regular walks with Marissa daily. Just days after Max suddenly got sick, she did as well. Our regular vet could not figure out what was going on and referred us to the emergency clinic. Without hospitalizing both of them and spending what could amount to ten thousand dollars for the next few days (on top of what we had already spent), neither of our babies was going to make it. In the end, the vets believed that Max's kidneys had failed and Misty had underlying cancer, perhaps in her pancreas. At least they lived without symptoms until the very end, and even then, neither of them complained. As we tried to nurse both of them ourselves, praying for improvement, they loved and trusted us with their usual tenderness. love, and compassion. I will never find animals quite like them this side of heaven, where I pray I meet with them again. God amazes me that He crafted these sweet babies, knowing they would be ours, and instilling just what I needed, we each needed, in both of them. Pure love, gentleness, acceptance, and peace emanated from them with ease, reminding me daily of what the Father desires from each of us.
Without them, I also think of the Father's gentle spirit when He created them and it allows me to grieve with hope that I will see them in eternity. Although animals do not have a soul that can choose to accept Christ as their Savior, and nothing biblically proves that animals will be in heaven, I pray that because Adam and Eve were stewards over animals in the beginning, that God will allow the beautiful four-legged family members we loved to have a final resting place with Him for eternity.
Grief is tricky, but also a beautiful mechanism of the love that God must have for us. For if I, a mere sinful human, can love with an intensity that allows me to deeply miss the animals I called a part of my family, imagine the extreme and passionate love God holds for each of us, His creation made with a purpose.
As we said goodbye to our beloved pets, I told the emergency vet that I had lost a daughter and many close family members, and that loss was a million times worse, yet the pain of losing my precious pets was still extremely painful. I carry the sweet memories made with them very close, thinking of their precious faces often throughout each day. I feel emptiness in my schedule because they are not here to make me laugh, sing, play hide and seek, or marvel at the way they join every activity with excitement and love simply because we are there with them. The way we each are to rejoice in our time spent with the Lord.
It’s okay to take life slower for as long as I need to and I should not feel guilty because I am grieving pets. If you are not a dog or pet lover, I understand. I honestly thought that I wouldn’t want any more pets after these were gone. I failed to understand the depth of the devotion I had for them. Although I am admittedly not a puppy person, it’s like having a newborn in the house, and that means a lot of work. Yet, I truly and deeply loved our dogs. They perfectly fit into each day and situation, even with quirky habits that made them even more a part of the family.
Losing pets also proves that pain is pain. Loss is loss.
Who understands the depth? Jesus.
Remember John 11:35? “Jesus wept.”
I remember the first days after losing my daughter. The depth of anguish was chasm-sized, relentless, and I had to force myself to breathe through the crushing pain weighing on my chest. I didn't want to cry in front of others because it felt too personal and I also wasn't sure that I could stop the tears. I wanted to grieve in my own way, plus I didn’t want to upset my four year old daughter or leave her burdened with a mother who couldn’t care for her. So I grieved in private times and allowed God to offer the peace only He can. But the years of loss after her, filled with many others I loved, have made me ultra-tender to grief. Also knowing that I have a young daughter who could experience decline at any time, and seeing the losses of so many parents I know who have children with similar conditions has marked my spirit in a way that has left me more vulnerable to grief. I've cried or thought of them daily since my sweet, furry companions have been gone and I feel like they must have felt when they used to lay on the floor, with underbellies exposed. But I don't care. God offers me peace and calm when I ask, just like with the losses before. He is ever-present and I feel Him near. He tells me that He holds my tears and each one is recorded. He understands as no one else can. What is gone had been a gift from Him and the preciousness is a reminder of each loved one I have been with, yet lost, and those I still hold and treasure. Any or all of them could be gone in an instant; another reminder that living with eternal perspective is the only way to fully live in this world.
About two weeks before Max got sick, I remember hearing a voice in my spirit one day that concerned me. It said, "Max will be attacked." Just as my Heavenly Father sent me a warning twenty-four hours before I lost my first child, I think God must have sent me a sign to trust Him again. He always watches over us in ways unique to each of us, and for the purposes He intends. I am glad He prepared me in this way. Losing both of our beloved and precious furry family members at once was truly very difficult. I feel like our culture sometimes dismisses the loss of pets as insignificant, but we the ties and bonds we have with our pets can be as strong and intense as some we have with humans. Our pets trust us implicitly, they love unconditionally, and spend almost every moment with us. The loss of their presence leaves a giant hole in our daily routines and lifestyle, as well as our ability to laugh and love in the same way we previously experienced. Yet, it makes everything sweeter still. One of the gifts of God is the ability to continue to peel away layer after layer of humanity and heal that exposed area with not new flesh, but the ability to hold and feel life more like He does and how He desires – with our mind and heart set for Him.
Eccesiastes 1:14 says, “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
Love trumps possessions or power. In the Bible, even Solomon’s special wisdom granted by God did not provide meaning that satisfied his soul. God continues to burden my heart with an ache that nothing in this world can satisfy. I truly desire for everyone to know Him and the peace that God alone brings us through a maturing relationship with Christ.
My heart yearns for each of us to make time to rest in Him. Change your schedule. Slow your life. Make time to not only read the word, but digest it. Ponder God’s words and ways. Apply His teachings, promises, and love to your life and those around you. Do not harbor bitterness or anger, jealousy or hatred, unforgiveness or sadness. Truly examine your heart and lay it before God so that He can heal the areas you need. Even when we already feel those areas have been released to Him, God and His words have mighty power that is living and active. Just as Hebrews 4:12 says, “Sharper than any double-edged sword, it pierces even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Cling ever tighter to Jesus, beginning now. Although I don’t enjoy the hurts of this world, God never fails to be the steadiness that is exactly what I need and He draws me ever nearer through all that occurs. May it always be so, and true for each one of us.
Father God, may we allow You to examine our thoughts and heart. We need You so much more than we know. Despite heartache and difficulty in this world, we become closer to You when we allow troubles and disappointment to draw us ever nearer. The only way we can do that is to be building a relationship with You consistently as one lays a firm foundation on solid ground so that we are ready before the storm hits. Thank you for being calm, peace, and steadiness that our minds can grasp, yet also so much more that we can only begin to fathom through the hope and trust You leave us in Jesus. You are all we need, dear Father. Thank you. In Your precious name we pray. Amen.
This week I pray you find new ways to rest in Him and cause yourself to cling to Him in deeper ways that test your faith and understanding. Allow Him to bring you to a new level of trust and abandonment of self.
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I pray this podcast draws you nearer to the Lord and helps you cling to Him, despite any circumstances in your life. Until next week, keep looking Up while focusing on new ways to Live With Eternal Perspective.