Grief is a hard thing. No matter how you slice it, it’s just stupid and hard.
A very sad thing happened to my family yesterday. Our four month old Golden Retriever puppy was hit by a car in front of our house. My three sweet children and my husband and I all sobbed in our front yard as Tracker took his last breathes.
If you’re not a dog person, you might not get this. And yes, I know that animals on the farm die. I’ve been a part of the circle of life on this farm quite a few times you’ll remember if you follow this blog, but my Goldens… we call them our ‘go dogs’ because they go where we go. They’re not farm animals. They’re not even pets to us. I call Harper my first born boy regularly, because that’s what he is to me. He was the first little life that God put me in charge of, and he was the first baby to keep me up all night long.
These dogs are my kids. I’m their mom.
Harper, our oldest dog who is now almost nine years old, came to us by way of a tax return. We knew we wanted a Golden Retriever, and as broke as we were, we just couldn’t go on without adding a puppy to our little two-some. When I went to pick him out, I knew right away which of the bubbly puppies I would take home. The one with the big ears. I didn’t even notice that he had a broken tail, or that one of his dewclaws hadn’t been removed because what’s a dewclaw? But after I had picked him, and after I was in love, the man told us he was on sale… because he wasn’t perfect.
Ruger, our soon to be eight year old Golden, was more of an impulse buy. I was six months pregnant, with a one year old puppy at home and we were quite literally in the middle of moving into the first house we had ever purchased. It was not a good time to start over in the puppy department. But there he was, in Heavenly Village in Tahoe, the last one left in an accidental litter. Right place, right pregnant lady.
But that was enough! No more dogs! I even made Ruger’s middle name ‘Caboose’ because he was the end.
Until he wasn’t…
We always knew we would continue our love for Goldens. A gal we met on our cross country road trip this last month said it perfectly when she pulled a sweet, white golden retriever out of her car for a pee break, “I don’t know why I wasted any time on any other breeds… they’re the best!”
Thomas and I have recently been talking about how old dogs really can teach new dogs old tricks, and we agreed that we wanted to get a puppy before our old dogs got too old to teach him how to poop in the woods and not run away- important dogs stuff.
Long story short, we came to be reconnected with the family who gave us Harper, and wouldn’t you know it… Harpers dad, named Tracker, was not only still alive, he was still a sire. As a matter of fact, he had just sired a litter out in Nevada. And wouldn’t you know it, there was one left. And wouldn’t you know it, we would be coming right through there on our way home.
It felt like the stars were aligning and God’s hand was on it. We named our new puppy Tracker, after his and Harper’s dad. It felt so very special to have my first born boy’s blood line continuing.
We had Tracker for one week. From Monday to Monday. And although I don’t understand why this happened, I am starting to understand that grief can be a powerful tool for destruction, and a powerful gift for perspective.
I swear, I must have circled the grief cycle three times before I went to bed last night.
Denial- Complete, surreal, confusion and disbelief.
Anger- Why God? How could you?
Bargaining- We have nine cats!! Take a cat! Take a cow! Take something else!
Depression- What in the actual fuck. (I need to use that word). Complete numbness.
Acceptance- Okay, we need to move to the next step. We need to go forward.
And then back to the beginning… in a heart beat… it starts over.
This past 24 hours have been terrible, I don’t want to sugar coat it. For one, I feel so very much guilt. SO much guilt. I was his mommy and I was supposed to keep him safe and I failed at that. I carry that heavy in my heart. I know it wasn’t my fault, but grief is stupid. I can’t escape the images I’ve seen. I can’t help my kids to unsee it. I am so, so sad that this happened. I feel this ache in my throat all the time. I break into an ugly face cry often. I’m so embarrassed that I couldn’t keep this puppy for more than a week- I couldn’t even believe I had to tell the woman we got him from that I had failed with her sweet puppy. And I am asking God a lot of questions- am I being punished? Are you teaching me something? Why did it have to go this way? I thought this was aligned by you, Lord…
And then my daughter… “I’ve prayed for a miracle about twenty five times… why hasn’t it happened?”
But like I said, grief can be a powerful gift for perspective, if we can be brave enough to allow it. Just because things don’t have a happy ending, doesn’t mean they’re not aligned by God.
I clung… CLUNG… to the promise of Romans 8:28 yesterday… you know the one you NEVER want to hear when you’re grieving…
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Even though it felt like utter bullshit… I clung to it. And today, I see it. Just a little bit, I can see it.
I saw a beautiful thing in my neighbor yesterday. And although I was so sad to have watched my sweet puppy die, I’m so glad I was there with him when he went. And although I am so sad that my kids were there to see it, I’m so glad they got to say goodbye and we were able to be together as a family. I can see that important conversations are happening. Life is hard, and this allowed us a safe place to learn a very hard lesson. My eyes were opened again to the preciousness of this life- the blessing of it- and how we take SO VERY MUCH for granted. Three minutes. That’s the difference between a happy healthy life, and that being taken. Three minutes. Life can turn on a dime, and yet we act like we’ve got all the time in the world to make our life count, to do the thing, to say the words, the make amends, to hug our spouse, to kiss our kids, to read that bedtime story…
The perspective shift grief gifted me is… we don’t have time. We just don’t. Life is precious.
And I don’t know why that sweet life, the perfect innocent life of that puppy had to be taken for me to remember that my life, and that of the people I love, is precious… but this morning I was reminded that there was a very perfect and innocent life already sacrificed for me to show me how very precious my life is.
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a slain offering and sacrifice to God, a sweet fragrance. Eph. 5:2
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous that he might bring us to God. 1 Peter 3:18
He entered once and for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. Heb. 9:12
So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith- that you being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Eph. 3:17-18
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24
All of these verses were in my devotional this morning and it was such a huge reminder to me in my terrible grief that sometimes we have to give it all to gain it all. Sometimes we have to lose, to see. Sometimes there are painful sacrifices made in incomprehensible love.
My husband reminds me all the time that God is more concerned with my eternal life, than my life here on earth. He works all things together for the good of THAT life. Not here. Here, we have pain and suffering, we take things for granted, we lose perspective, we become victims.
But if we’re brave enough, sometimes we can see hope through grief. Sometimes we can see the blinding good. Sometimes we can hurt, but also feel the crazy love surrounding us.
I’m so sad, indescribably sad, that I had to say goodbye to Tracker, but he gifted me love and joy in his life with us, and he gifted me peace and perspective in his passing.
Through him, I could see the sacrifice of something so much bigger- given up just for me.