When I brought Sally home she was four months old. I had just turned 22. Today, twelve and a half years later, we lost her. The tears just won’t stop coming.

I married very young, and in many ways, my husband and I were still learning to navigate married life. We had moved from our home-state four months earlier. My husband had made his position on a dog clear (NO!), but I ignored his wishes and went with a friend to see Sally – a terrier mix with big, searching eyes and a quiet demeanor. Even now, I feel deeply sorry that I made such a decision without my partner on-board, but she won him over in a heartbeat, and I am so glad that she did.

Sally’s arrival really marked the beginning of my adult journey. She taught me that I could bear the weight of another creature’s physical and emotional needs – that I could be depended upon. We had tried raising a puppy once before, and it pains me to confess that I didn’t have the maturity or forethought for a puppy. But when Sally came, I was ready. I poured into her the time, attention and unconditional devotion that she needed. Not that I was a great (or even good) trainer or super intuitive, but I loved her so much. Maybe it seems like a lot to put on a dog, but she paved the way for my children. My firstborn came nearly five years after Sally, and my second baby another nearly five years after that. Four months ago, we moved back to our hometown, and I can’t help but feel that Sally’s death just closed the door on a significant part of my life.

Sally was an intelligent dog; she would watch me from across the room and seemed to understand the conversations going on around her. I will miss her quiet presence at my feet and beside me on the couch or bed. She had a bit of an independent streak. She was a stubborn thing, but I never could fault her for that. Nothing got her more excited than a rabbit, and nothing more focused than a mouse. I really thought she would chase them here a while longer.

Rest well, Sally. I miss you.


My Grandma’s Fake Pearls

PearlsI am blessed to have quite a few items in my home from loved ones. The items themselves, of course, are not so important, but the memories and feelings that they invoke are very dear to me. Most of these things are in view every day and to be honest, I forget to cherish them, to remember what they represent.

There is one item, however, that never fails to reach me. I love the long strand of fake pearls from my grandma, who has been gone a few years, now. I love their soft sheen and smooth weight. I love the sound they make. I don’t know how long she owned them or how often she wore them, but it doesn’t matter. They aren’t something that I would usually wear, so putting them on is always intentional. The unfamiliar feeling of the pearls wrapped around my wrist or hanging from my neck brings me back to them again and again, reminding me of Grandma.

My daughter wore her “pearls” today to “get married” (she is six 🙂 ) and wanted me to match. So I am wearing Grandma’s pearls and feel the need to thank her for reminding me to be intentional – to notice the special in everything. My spirit has been dulled to the beauty in my every day for some time and I know that there is choice in that. I even forget to relish the big things – inexplicably choosing to allow my mood to snuff out my positivity. So today I choose to take my time and focus on the luxury of coffee in a beautiful mug instead of on my irritability as I take cold sips between kid fussing and feeding. I’ll stop to feel the simple joy in the act of scrawling something on a piece of paper – even if it’s just a grocery list (if you love writing, you’ll understand) and all those other conveniences which make me truly spoiled. Mostly, though, I will take joy in my kids and husband, for them and for me.

All my love, Grandma.


Reflections on the Nature of Empathy

I am sick. It is miserable. But it has got me mulling over a few thoughts that I actually have fairly often about the nature of empathy. When someone I know is sick, I might say, “Oh, I’m so sorry. Hope you feel better soon.” And I am sorry. I don’t want them to be sick. But why not? I don’t know that it is possible to separate how much of that feeling is real sorrow for their sake and how much is selfish. It is probably true that I’ve been there before and know, at least to certain point, what they are going through. But is that empathy? There is a certain removal or detachment when you hear about someone’s misfortune and you yourself are not at that moment experiencing it.

And sometimes I think it is possible to feel greater empathy for someone going through something you haven’t experienced. Because experiencing something desensitizes you, too. For example, I’ve had a bad cold before. In the moment, when I’m stuffed up and nauseous and feverish it feels… just awful. I can’t remove myself from it. But when my husband gets the same cold and I’m over it, I know it isn’t the end of the world. I might even feel (I know this is terrible) irritated. However, when my sister was diagnosed with cancer, something I’ve never been through, the magnitude of my feeling was overwhelming. Yes, I know these two situations are not comparable, but the thought of her facing the pain of treatment and possibly even death was incredibly scary, partly because of the… mystery, for lack of a better word. I am NOT saying I felt what she felt, but could the depth of feeling, the intensity, the not-knowing, actually have been greater for those of us that hadn’t been there than it would have been for, say, other cancer survivors? Maybe their perspective was more constructive, they certainly understood the situation with greater specificity, but perhaps making it through cancer causes you to look at it from a new angle. When you think you know what someone is going through because you’ve been there, it might seem less earth-shattering.

Another comparison might be the way some people can feel more moved by the plight of an abused animal than by a fellow-human. We don’t know exactly what the animal feels. They can’t tell us, which makes their suffering somehow more poignant.

Language and communication are funny things. We spend so much time on them, but words are seldom sufficient to convey emotion or physical pain. I might feel badly if no one makes an effort to comfort me, but when they do their well-intentioned remarks often fall flat. And not through any fault of their own! I can think of many personal examples. When my sister (different sister) died, my friends and co-workers were supportive and sympathetic. Most hadn’t been through that kind of loss, so the shock and dismay they felt on my behalf probably came closer to the actual feeling of loss I experienced right when I heard than someone who’d been through it before. None of them though, had any idea what the nature of our relationship was, so they couldn’t understand how I really felt. Just the way it goes.

Maybe these words belie whatever knowledge of suffering I think I have. If I seem insensitive, I apologize!

I was going to try to examine my feelings about the humanity of Jesus in terms of empathy, but I don’t have the energy and this post got much longer than I intended! I’ve probably thoroughly confused you if you’ve made it this far anyway. Suffice it to say, the deepest comfort, the deepest feeling of understanding I ever feel does not come from other people but from the wordless moments I spend with God.

Matthew 11:28-30: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Romans 8:26: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.


Paul’s Letters to the Thessalonians – A Mini Series

Over the next few days, my posts are going to address questions that I have after reading Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians.

Today I’m talking death – or more specifically, post-death. I grew up believing that when you die you go to Heaven or to Hell immediately. I know that different denominations believe different things on this matter, but I’m curious to know if scripture supports one theory more heavily. Before I get into this I should state that it doesn’t actually matter much to me. Yes, the issue piques my interest, but in the end, I don’t think it is terribly important. I know that this can be an issue of real contention for some, though, so please feel free to leave a comment about your own feelings and why you believe what you believe.

  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: 13Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18Therefore encourage each other with these words.

From this passage, I understand “…those who have fallen asleep…” to mean those who are dead. I also feel like the meaning is pretty straightforward: When we die, we remain “asleep” until the coming of Lord. But, doesn’t this contradict Luke 23:43, when Jesus promises paradise to one of the criminals who was beside him during the crucifixion?

  • And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Or are we to understand that as an exception to the rule? A special case? What do you think? Any other scriptures of interest? The other thing I wonder about is the concept of time after death. Perhaps the passage from Thessalonians can be viewed through a different lens if we don’t subject it to our understanding of time.

Thanks for reading! Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend. 🙂