God is teaching me a lot about loss right now. Right here at Christmas, when the focus is on getting — getting gifts, getting decorations up, getting together with loved ones — I am living through different kinds of loss. Charis losing her front tooth. Losing my time. Losing a dog. Tucked into each of these losses are good lessons, but they are bittersweet.
Charis is now officially without two front teeth. I must be getting sentimental in my old age, but it marked more than being able to sing the “All I want for Christmas” song. She is growing up. The baby of her is almost gone. I looked at her and thought, “Childhood is passing so quickly.” And there is a spiritual picture in losing teeth — moving away from baby things to maturity, from temporary to permanent, from milk to solid foods. I am forced to ask: Am I investing in the days I have with her? I found myself praying, “Lord, help me to relish the moments. Help me to savor her as she lets go of childlike things, and to not miss these vanishing days.”
Birthdays, though wonderful, are a kind of loss to me. They mark a passage of time. I always do an evaluation of where my life is to date. What am I doing with my time? Am I moving forward in my life goals and dreams? Have I allowed another year to be sucked away by distractions and excuses? Now more than ever, I am seeing that my time is a gift. My energy and health are gifts. But they are like seeds that can only be sown in certain seasons. I don’t want to lose the seeds to neglect.
We had to put Pearl, our Great Dane, down. She was nine years old, which is old age for these gentle giants. But age didn’t ease the how, why, and when questions, the second-guessing, the wishful thinking. When your dog weighs 150+ lbs, your options are very limited. But her frailty didn’t lessen the bitter decision. Finally, one day when Salem and I were both trying to lift Pearl up to help her outside and failing miserably, Charis’ voice hit home. “Mom, it’s just time. It’s time to put her down,” she said quietly. Just like that, I realized that my avoiding the moment wouldn’t stop the moment. The loss was inescapable.
We all went together as a family, by choice. We cried and prayed before we took her to the vet. We thanked the Lord for the years, for the great dog that she was. And again Charis’ voice cut through the fog. “Lord, it is just time to let Pearl go. Help us let her go. We love her. And we let her go back to You. Amen.”
The peace that transcends understanding flooded into my weeping heart. After it was over — the vet, the tears, Pearl’s last breaths escaping her body — I asked the Lord to show me the sweet of this bitter moment. And the sweet was in the weeping. We all came home and lay on our bed together and wept. It was the realness of the loss, the realness of the emotion, the realness of death that we needed to experience and be comforted in.
What makes gain so real, so beautiful, is when it laid up against loss. My heart knows joy better when it has known grief. A hungry belly appreciates a meal more than a well fed one. A father letting his son go off to war knows better than anyone the joy of his son’s return. Let God soften and comfort your heart in losses. He is an ever-present help in time of need.