Thursday, March 12, 2015

Saying Goodbye

We had to do something incredibly difficult last Friday.  We had to say goodbye to our dog of 13 years because cancer had begun to win.  He was my dog before he was the family's and I think his preference would have been to keep it that way.  But he tolerated each new child that entered our home and was always patient, loving and kind.  He put up with my six year old walking him and my three year old throwing balls into his bed and my one year old pulling chunks of fur out of his back.  He happily cleaned up all the food the kids dropped as they made their daily rounds and he was part of the fabric of our daily lives.  But it was time to say goodbye.

I fought with the decision for a long time.  How do you decide something like that?  It didn't feel like I had the right.  I prayed and prayed for God to make it clear to me and tried to let the matter rest.  When I woke up Friday morning, it was obvious what I had to do.  His tumor had ruptured and there was nothing else we could do to help him.  I made the appointment through tears as the boys played outside then started to plan how to tell them.

We finished up lunch and I asked them to come sit with me on the couch.  I explained that it was time for Burtie to go to heaven and that we needed to say to goodbye.  I told them the most loving thing we can do is let him go where he will be young and free alongside God and his golden retriever best friend, Oscar.  I tried to keep it short - I tend to over explain and cause them to be confused and lost in all the words.  

My three year old kind of understood.  He simply said, "So...Burtie has to go to heaven?  With God? Okay."  He then gave him a hug and a kiss and marched upstairs.  Conversation over.  But my six year old looked like he had been punched in the stomach.

Tears streamed down his face and he buried his head in the couch so that I couldn't see them.  "Tell me what's happening in your heart, love," I said.  
"I don't want him to go."
I rubbed his back and tried to just be there.  I felt tears stinging my cheeks although I hadn't even realized I had started crying.  I couldn't find the right words - Everything felt trite.  So we just sat together and cried until the tears were gone.  

"Mommy," he began.  "I think I'm going to make a dog so that I can snuggle with it and walk it when I miss Burt."
"What a great idea, bud.  What do you need?"
He brightened as he started to brainstorm materials.  "Definitely a box.  And glue.  And a marker.  So that we can draw his face."
We gathered everything and worked in the garage side by side to cut out little legs and a tail then glue them to a shoe box.  He drew a smile and eyes on the front and gave it a hug.  Finally, he let me give him a real hug.  "We'll get through this together, sweetheart.  God will help us to heal."
He quietly asked God to keep our Burton safe and to make sure he had lots of food and long walks.  He wiped away his tears and ran inside to build with his Legos.  I just sat in the garage for a few minutes to gather my thoughts.

Death is a big thing to understand.  Adults don't even know the right way to handle grief.  And yet, my son was the wisest of all.  He was the one who thought to create something to honor the dog he loved.  He was the one who turned to God and prayed for Him to protect his beloved pet.  He reminded me that we don't always have to explain.  Sometimes we just have to feel and ask God to help us as we navigate uncharted territory.  He will be there.  He already is there.  We just have to trust.

What do you need God to help you navigate today?  Stop and say that prayer and then listen.  He will tell you what to do.

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