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We finally had to help him cross the bridge this afternoon. His breath began to be labored, and he was becoming uncomfortable. A wonderful vet with a mobile practice came out to the house. He was so tired he never even knew there was a stranger there. It was all very peaceful and gentle. We let Kisa see his body, and watch us carry him out to the van. His body will be cremated and we'll get the ashes back later. Normally we bury our pets here, but he was a big fella.

People often say "The house is too quiet" after an animal dies. Well, this house is never very quiet, but I've been so tuned, for months now, to listen for his little whines and shuffling steps, to go down and see what he needs. I keep thinking I hear him, and then I realize it can't be that, it's something else. Who is doing all that whining down there, anyway?

I've lost so many animals over the years. I don't think I could keep doing it, keep laying my heart open and having it broken, if I didn't think there would be a reunion. I loved these animals for a reason. I was made with the capacity to love them for a reason. A long time ago, when I was making the journey that eventually led me to Rome, I read a book by CS Lewis called The Great Divorce. It describes the journey of a man from Hell to Heaven, although he and his companions recognize neither at first for what they are. The entire little book is thought-provoking and wise, but this passage in particular has given me great comfort over the years, and I reread it often and send it to friends who have parted with four-legged companions for a time.

All down one long aisle of the forest the undersides of the leafy branches had begun to tremble with dancing light; and on Earth I knew nothing so likely to produce this appearance as the reflected lights cast upward by moving water. A few moments later I realized my mistake. Some kind of procession was approaching us, and the light came from the persons who composed it.

First came bright Spirits, not the Spirits of men, who danced and scattered flowers -- soundlessly falling, lightly drifting flowers....then, on the left and right, at each side of the forest avenue, came youthful shapes, boys upon one hand, and girls upon the other. If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who read that score would ever grow sick or old.

Between them went musicians: and after these a lady in whose honour all this was being done.

I cannot remember now whether she was naked or clothed. If she were naked, then it must have been the almost visible penumbra of her courtesy and joy which produces in my memory the illusion of a great and shining train that followed her across the happy grass. If she were clothed, then the illusion of nakedness is doubtless due to the clarity with which her inmost spirit shone throught the clothes. For clothes in that country are not a disguise: the spiritual body lives along each thead and turns them into living organs. A robe or a crown is there as much one of the wearer's features as a lip or an eye.

But I have forgotten. And only partly do I remember the unbearable beauty of her face.

'Is it?....is it?" I whispered to my guide.

"Not at all" said he. "It's someone ye'll never have heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green."

"She seems to be ...well, a person of particular importance?

"Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things."

"And who are these gigantic people...look! They're like emeralds....who are dancing and throwing flowers before her?"

"Haven't ye read your Milton? A thousand liveried angels lackey her."

"And who are all these young men and women on each side?'

'They are her sons and daughters.'

'She must have had a very large family, Sir.'

'Every young man or boy that met her became her son--even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.'

'Isn't that a bit hard on their own parents?'

'No. There are those that steal other people's children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But is was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives."

'And how...but hullo! What are all these animals? A cat--two cats--dozens of cats. And all these dogs...why, I can't count them. And the birds. And the horses.'

'They are her beasts.'

'Did she keep a sort of zoo? I mean, this is a bit too much. '

'Every beast and bird that came near her had its place in her love. In her they became themselves. And now the abundance of life she has in Christ from the Father flows over into them.'

I looked at my Teacher in amazement.

'Yes,' he said. 'It is like when you throw a stone into a pool, and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end? Redeemed humanity is still young, it has hardly come to its full strength. But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life.'


 

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
wildwose
Oct. 6th, 2008 11:27 pm (UTC)
My utmost condolences and heartfelt love at the loss of your four legged friend. I was touched by your notes there.

We have talked this year about our shared experiences of farm life and animals. What is interesting for me, that after a lifetime of animals and pets and raising cattle to even ultimately put them on the table, something shifted in me this year when we lost a cat in our home. My mind has turned and it felt so much like what it really was...the loss of a friend.

Once again, my condolences.
pyratelady
Oct. 7th, 2008 12:49 am (UTC)
*crying* I am so, so sorry, and I hope with all of my heart that you see him again.
skivee
Oct. 7th, 2008 03:42 am (UTC)
How very sad. I'm sorry for your loss.
Hugs, Craig
lowlandscot
Oct. 7th, 2008 03:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you all for your thoughts
Really much better today. The hard part is wondering every half-hour "Is it time? Is he telling me NOW? Is he unhappy?" and then finally doing it. Get all the tears out, get a night's sleep, and you realize, without even a whole lot of guilt, that there's relief there too pushing the sadness out of the way. He had a long life, a great life, he never knew hunger or hatred or fear. Well, he would have disputed the "hunger" part but that's a saluki for you. You've heard that old joke about dogs chasing cars -- so what is he gonna do with it if he catches it. Jeeves would have eaten it.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )