Friday, August 05, 2005

Grief

On a cold, gray, and rainy November morning in August, we grieved with Linda for the loss of her friend. The news was received in a casual morning's perusal of the last twelve hours worth of e-mails -- casual until my eyes scanned across Linda's words of explanation, and suddently the air became thicker, the skies turned grayer, and my heart grew heavy: Bagheera had passed away in the night.

To some, it's hard to understand the meaning and emotions caught up in the death of a beloved pet, and -- truth be told -- I've never been much of a "cat person" (slightly allergic, in fact)... But Bagheera was more than a pet: she was a friend, a companion, and a symbol of familiarity, faithfulness, fearlessness... For some reason, I've found myself strangely affected by the loss of Bagheera... And honestly, I don't fully understand the meaning of these emotions.

Linda doesn't have trouble understanding. For her, Bagheera was one of the few static points over the last two years of transition and uncertainty. An anchor during the storms of uprooted relationships, nauseating homesickness, and debilitating unfamiliarity that mark the sojourn to a new and foreign world. Sleek, svelte, smooth, smart -- a cat can be all of the things that a human cannot as stranger in a strange land. For Linda, her cat was a friend, roommate, comforter, confidant, and beloved daughter. Someone who would always listen, lounge, and lavish unconditional love through the peaks and valleys of life in Amsterdam... Losing Bagheera is a loss of means and meaning -- clearly evidenced by the sobs poured out over a bouquet of sunflowers. Grieving such a loss is no mystery for Linda.

Elliot doesn't have trouble understanding. Just three and a half years into his life, Bagheera has become his first real experience with death. His gateway into the existential questions with which we must all wrestle: Why did Bagheera die? -- Why is Linda sad? -- Why can't I see her again? -- Where is Bagheera now? -- Am I going to die? And while death is a new concept, sadness and separation are very meaningful keys that provide passage through the gateway to the formation of his understanding. So Elliot does grieve. He grieves because Bagheera started as a different kind of gateway: his first real experience with a cat. At first, Elliot would not want to even go near Bagheera (nor would Bagheera want to go near Elliot). Over time, he would get near to her (and she to him) -- but touching was still out of the question. Eventually, physical touch could be initiated, down near the tail... It was a slow dance, but they finally found fidelity, fearlessness, and friendship -- to the point that her passing now presents pain.

Now, through these people that we love, Marci and I are pulled into this grief. Together, we experience the emotions. Together, we ask the meaning. We wrestle with the deeper implications of a friend's death. What is heaven like? Do animals find life after death? Defined answers are hard to come by...

Yet if heaven is meant to be a place of joy and fulfillment, I find it hard to believe that Linda will not again experience the joy and fulfillment of stroking Bagheera's soft, warm fur one day. And if we're one day promised new and glorified bodies to experience a new Heaven and a new Earth, I find it hard to believe that there would not be new and glorified animals as well. Eden reborn... But then again, maybe the animals never left Eden in the first place. They never knowingly disobeyed. They never tasted the forbidden fruit. They never fell from grace.

As I consider this, I can see the reason for Bagheera's aura of innocence and divinity. And I can understand why we now miss her so much: we must persist in this fallen world without them.

Tonight we say good-night to Bagheera -- wherever she is -- and we look forward to an end of this existence of tossing and turning, when we can wake up in glory. Together in Eden.

5 Comments:

At 2:50 AM, Anonymous mom said...

Please give my sincere sympathy to Linda at the loss of her special pet and friend. There is such unconditional love from a pet (except for the time our dog, Moody, was mad at me for leaving on vacation; she welcomed everyone else when we arrived home, but shunned me for a couple of days). I don't mean to be glib-I really do understand the grief at such a loss, and you have written a lovely tribute for a wonderful cat.

 
At 2:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a lovely tribute to Linda and Bagheera. Please give Linda a hug for me and the rest of the Doerler family in the US. Our thoughts and prayers are with her at this difficult time.

Cousin Karlene

 
At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Jen Ross said...

What a beautiful,well-written essay and a very healing thing for Linda to read. Thanks for your willingness to engage with her suffering and weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn!

 
At 2:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Linda,

My Scout passed away two years ago this February after 16 years of companionship. It wasn't long until after his death a mama cat carrying kittens crossed our path during a March afternoon walk in the neighborhood. We have one of those kittens now, and Roxanne, our new found feline reassures us that God's love goes on, just in other forms of angels. You will be needed by another feline, as you in return will need its love. It's out there waiting for you.

Your friend, Christie

 
At 9:11 PM, Anonymous Chantel Roberts said...

Linda,

Hey, it's Chantel & Mark! We received your e-mail. I don't yet have my own e-mail address, so I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. Words cannot express (I say this w/ tears in my eyes & pain in my heart for you)how hard it is to let go of those tremendous, glorious blessings Christ allows us to steward for days only he knows the full duration of. My loss of Chelsea was familiarly difficult. One night she was fine, had just been to the vet. All the bloodwork great. She was in good spirits, etc. Then in a single night everything changed. She started bleeding. We took her to the emergency vet b/c it occurred over Labor Day weekend (similar timing) in 2002. I had just lost my little love, Skylar, my Scottie 1 month earlier so I was not in any way ready for Chelsea's loss so soon. Her bleeding worsened each day, until I finally asked for more tests to be run & it's then we identified it was not a urinary infection, but an auto-immune blood disease. She too went into a coma & the doctors told me I could leave her side to take care of a few things at work. I prayed so hard Christ would let her remain until I had returned. She had been such a faithful companion to me, I wanted to be there for her last. My lord did not see fit for that prayer to be answered. I never saw my baby pup again, alive. So I know how difficult this must be for you. It about ripped my heart out for months & to this day is difficult to discuss. I finally was reminded by Christ that Skylar & Chelsea, and now for you, Bagheera, are his gifts to give & to take back as He determines is useful in our lives. I don't know why he allows it. I wish he didn't. Many times I wish I had just been created an angel made to be in His presence continually, not having impure thoughts, or motives. Not having to grapple w/ loss in the physical realm, as we are translated to the spiritual. But, Christ reminds me it was while I was yet at enmity with God, as He states in Ephesians, that he saved me. An act motivated by His love. And while all the things we experience in life do not seem to add up to the love of God, he promises that though the afflictions of the righteous are many, he will stick closer than a brother & He will work this out for our good. I say this w/ a sick, gnawing, tug at my own heart for you, especially to lose her at such an incredibly young age. With all the other things you have going on, I know this would be the last thing you would expect to happen and a small thing for God to have prevented. Those are the types of questions that have tormented me w/ my own losses; however, eventually Christ somehow becomes all the more visible to us, all the more real to us as we reach out to Him for the relief of our souls. Come to me He says, all who are weary & heavy laden, & I will give you rest. I pray for you to have that rest. For us, the Lord's help me realized I wouldn't have known the 4 little pups I now have if Christ had not taken my other babies. I don't know how He will respond in your life, but I pray He will provide, in fresh, new ways, His comfort, His peace & begin healing the gnawing of your heart. Also, according to some things I've read by RC Sproul & John Piper, they believe we will see our pets again just like Pastor Eric mentioned. Our prayers, as always, are with you and my heart aches with yours. You are not alone. May God richly bless and fill your loss with Himself.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home