Last night I went to my sister Rachel's house to offer consoling support as she made the difficult choice to put down her dog of 12 years, Odie. The poor animal had cancer throughout her body, and though she had stopped eating, had already lived a week past the vet's most optimistic predictions.
After a fine day of chasing squirrels in the park, Odie sat on the couch in her own home, surrounded by soft music, warm candlelight, and people who loved her. The vet was compassionate and considerate, and when the time came, Odie drifted off as peacefully as can be. Interesting how in so many ways this pet's death was much 'better' than the deaths of many people in our society. Of course, some might suggest that the death, brought about by some drugs, was premature; that's a blog entry for another occasion.
What I found most interesting was how we make use of the gifts God gives us. Odie's life was a gift to Rachel. Rachel made good use of it, she held on to it with love, but loosely when the time game to let it go. And Odie's death, too, it seems to me was a gift. It was a difficult thing --but anytime death intrudes in a dramatic way in our lives, we have the opportunity to find out something important about the preciousness of life; and perhaps we are motivated to make changes, to live differently. It reminds me what the Misfit says in one of Flannery O'Conner's great short stories: "She would of been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."