We lost our beloved puppy MAXimilian nearly a week ago.
He was such a sweet, sweet boy. He was smart and patient with the kiddos. He had abundant energy. He cuddled with us all, but loved me best. He was a pleaser, so perpetually obedient that I often joked, "he's my favorite child."
One minute he was here, being taken for granted by us all. And the next, he was dead in the street. Hit by a car. Lifeless on impact.
Because Hubby was only almost home, I had to pick up his limp, still warm body from the road. I had to wrap him in the blanket he came home to us in. The one that had the scent of his mother on it.
Yet, almost immediately, I thanked God. The thankfulness confounds me a little. Yet, there was so much to be thankful for, even in our devastating grief.
I thanked Him that my children did not see the actual impact. That his precious thirteen-pound body remained intact. That he died instantly. That he looked like he was peacefully sleeping in the road. The only thing betraying that illusion; the tiny pool of blood at the corner of his mouth. We were all home and able to cry together and each hold him in our arms one last time. We buried him together as a unit, each of us shoveling a scoop of dirt or two over him, in the hole that Hubby and my eldest dug. We mourned together - crying and hugging and speechless. For all of that, I thanked The Almighty.
Two of my children blamed themselves. Still blame themselves. They have taken it the hardest. They left the door open to go play outside and he followed them. They saw him in the road first. They "should have done something."
This is what I told them:
There was nothing to be done. God gives us all a number of days on the earth. No human hand can stop God's perfect plan. His timing is perfect. We had all grown comfortable in the fact that Max no longer ran away. And, we were all guilty of leaving that particular door open when it should have been always shut. Any of us could have left it open that day. It just happened to have been them.
I told them in the human mind, life is short. Way too short. Our loved ones are sometimes taken way before we feel it's time. Before we've said I love you, again. Before we've done one last wonderful thing for them. After we've said or done something horrible to them that didn't seem very horrible when we assumed they'd live forever. When they are gone, it seems like the most horrible thing we've ever done in our lives.
Privately, I thanked God for this too - the chance that my children had to see dead up close and personal. Painfully. Regretfully. Heartbreakingly. For the chance to see just how fleeting life is. I remember when my beloved Aunt Helen, sick in the hospital after her first major stroke, heard that her husband had lost his battle with cancer. Her first words were, "Gone with the wind." Such is life.
And, much the same way that I was able to observe my aunt, my kids got to see me mourn Max; to sob for him and hold gently a dead body. They saw my husband, who is often stoic, cry like a baby in front of them, caressing the remains of a dog that often annoyed him, who he mostly ignored. Emotions, they learned, are complex. And, then he shared with them, again, the tragedy of his life - when eighteen years ago he left for work and the brother he lived with seemed perfectly healthy. A few hours later he got a call that that very same brother, at twenty-six, was gone.
My kids, at fourteen, and twelve, and nine and seven got to experience all of that. I pray that they will now be more conscious of the things they say to others. That they will cherish the moments and be less annoyed with the ordinarily annoying ways of others. They will be more aware of the mortality of us all and the importance of loving everyone, every second they get to do so.
I thank God. I do. Even in my grief. My own sadness confuses me. Of course I cared for Max, and I truly I enjoyed him. I did not know the extent of my love for him, that it would be so difficult to fathom his mortality. That I would take a nap on the couch and think I felt his weight and warmth at my feet, even though he'd died the day before. He was a little over a year and a half. It's numbing, really, to remember that he is gone each time I consider him. My stomach still clenches when I pass the spot on the road in front of the house where he was found, where I had to pick him up. My heart aches for our sweet, sweet puppy, who loved us all, and who we all loved.
Still, I am so grateful.
In my desire to assuage my childrens' anguish, we've prayed unceasingly for comfort. I told them that God has a plan for us all and that His plan is perfect, although often impossible for us to understand. Then my flesh jumped in and I said one of the stupid things that humans often say when death strikes, I told them that we don't know if maybe God was trying to protect us from something that could have happened if Max had stayed alive; maybe he had some illness that would have caused us to watch him waste away and suffer for many months. This way, I told them, was instant and far less painful. Of course, it's ridiculous. I cannot even pretend to understand the ways of God or make sense of His plan.
But, my eldest made a much wiser application. He asked me if I'd noticed that Maxie was lighter after he died than he had been when we was alive. Yes, I nodded slowly. Yes, I remember he was. Although, at the time I hadn't paid attention. Yes, he was significantly lighter. It's proof, he said, that we do all have a spirit. And, Max's was gone. Our spirits have weight. They are tangible even if invisible.
One more thing I'm thankful for - confirmation. Here is this young man that I am trying to mold into a man that believes in and submits to and loves Jesus. And, in the moment of his greatest sorrow he to Jesus. He settled in proof of Him.
I love Jesus and thank Him for life, however fleeting, and the lessons that we learn from children.
1 Thessalonians 5:16 - Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Jesus Christ.