Grieving My Dog

Grief is on the mind and heart lately, with a fresh new intensity, as I let go of my dog Finnegan Quinn after his recent death.

It occurs to me that grief is the nature of life in a fallen world. It is also the nature of recovery from abuse. My recovery has been an experience of new life after grieving the death of childhood and many other lost things. Yet, grieving adds to the challenge of staying ahead of a depression while the pandemic and crazy world boil and bubble.

Grief and recovery are vastly different. Grieving we recall memories which, during recovery, are fractured or warped or buried. Grief and recovery are very similar, too. In both we reconstruct a story already innately known. They all echo each other. They connect. When grief over Quinn hit hard, all the other pathways of grieving across my decades of losses blinked on and started to fire off signals. The feelings and distinct images all came back, worst of all was the keen sense of powerlessness. We are all powerless before the worst of the world. I could not cure the illness or alleviate the suffering of loved ones. Could not reverse the random tragedies and brutal aftermaths. Could not reduce the pain of remembering as someone walked through recovery to new life. I could only love, love with a blended mind and heart. Either one alone would not do.

It is true that there are no magical words or formula to fix these realities of a fallen world. I regularly warn people in trauma-informed ministry workshops not to try to “make it better” because that usually makes it worse. We show up. We listen. We dare to draw on our own suffering to keep company with someone else who is suffering. We don’t pretend to have power, either. So I tried my own advice last week. It was hell.

And, it was grace. There is more than release to hope for, for me and for every creature loved by God. Jesus arrived on the scene to suffer, die, and rise from the dead. Salvation is not magic. It’s life itself. The complications exist because we still don’t usually know what we are doing, and hardly know what we really need, and it took a shepherd to find us and to lead us home. It is not lost on me, here, or ever, that dogs are great shepherds. Each of mind have brought me closer to God.

Our lot is to choose whether to receive God’s free gift and to surrender to the mystery of being eternally alive in a dying world. As for me and my house, where my rescue dog Finnegan Quinn and other dogs and little rescue creatures have found love in a safe home, we choose the Lord.

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