Sherman the dog

Why You Must Have the Guts to Grieve

It wasn’t supposed to end this way.

Jon had gone to bed, my husband had taken our older sons out to dinner, and I was home preparing for the week ahead. Typically, Sunday evenings are spent preparing for the week: packing lunches, putting away laundry, and picking up around our place. While I mopped the kitchen floor, our German Shepherd lay down on the tile hardly able to breathe.

Sherman came into our lives ten years ago. When we married, I figured it would be great for my husband to have his own “man’s best friend” since he had taken the heroic step in marrying a woman with a semi-truck-size load of baggage. I found a breeder and off we went to get his new pup. It took all of four minutes for us to fall in love with his little buddy he named Sherman.

Sherman was the size of a small tank, insanely protective, fiercely loyal, dreadfully nervous, circling the yard as if he was commander-in-chief. Whether it was a few leaves blowing by a window or my son coming to visit on college break, Sherman would immediately let us know by running to the door and barking so loud he could wake the neighborhood. He sounded terrifying, yet with our family he was outstandingly tender. Anytime Jon was sick or had seizures, Sherman would sit by holding watch for hours. When I was recovering from back surgery, Sherman lay by the couch quietly and faithfully. Truth be told, Sherman was the happiest when my husband or son walked through the door at the end of the day.  He would pick up a toy and run around, playfully relaxed because, with the men home, all was well in Sherman’s world.

Almost overnight, everything changed. We chalked it up to his age and having a rambunctious new Rottweiler puppy to contend with. But as days passed, his eyes became glossy and distant, his happy yelp turned into a low growl, and playing was a thing of the past. At the urging of my daughter who is in grad school for veterinary medicine, we took him in for a check-up.

Less than two hours later, we learned Sherman had a rare, aggressive, untreatable cancer that would take his life within a month.

Three weeks after getting the diagnosis, I lay down on the tile by Sherman and began to cry.  As I lay on the floor petting his huge ears and boney back, I texted my husband, called my daughter, and let the tears fall. Sherman’s eyes grew faint as he drew in his last breath.  I gently closed his eyes, not wanting to believe he was really gone. My husband and son walked in shortly after he passed; for the next hour we laughed and cried recalling memories we’ll never forget.

Yes, Sherman was a dog, but he represented so much more in our family.  He was part of our family’s fresh start, a gift to my husband, an unconditional friend to our kids.  He helped two broken families bond, loved us when we were most unlovable, and reminded us that play was essential to our sanity. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is we lost a part of our family and are in the midst of grief.

If you aren’t a dog or pet lover, it’s so easy to think, “Come on, it was just a dog.” I get that. So, take a moment and think of something or someone who has impacted your life for the better, helped you, listened to you, accepted you without any expectation, or filled you with life and hope. How would you respond if you lost what you treasure, the person or thing that has filled your heart with joy?

pondering Scripture

A couple days after Sherman passed, I pondered a tiny part of Scripture that I never hear talked about in church. The ultimate picture of loss happened following the death of Christ. Think for a moment; Jesus chose 12 men who spent night and day with Him for three solid years.  They learned from Him, probably laughed out loud many times, He listened and loved them; then SUDDENLY, He was gone.

You and I jump from Good Friday to Easter morning. Jesus dies one moment then is alive the next.  We can say that in one sentence.  Those who walked with Jesus LIVED for days without Him and didn’t have the Bible to remind them His death wasn’t permanent. Can you imagine how lost they must have felt, the memories they may have discussed, the tears of sorrow?  Their best buddy, the One they gave up everything for, was dead.

While the story doesn’t end with Jesus’ death, it is vital to step into the shoes of those who loved and followed Him.  Why?  Because life on earth is similar to the time between Christ’s death and resurrection. For those who have trusted Jesus as their Savior, there is hope because eternity exists.  For those who haven’t or refuse to trust in Jesus Christ, there is no hope . . . this is it. While living, the most important decision you make on earth is whether or not you have trusted Christ as your Lord and Savior. If you haven’t, where is your hope?

Sherman’s death has reminded me to fix my eyes and heart on eternal things. Walking through our grief allows us to refocus and to remember this earth is not our home. Our days on earth are similar to the days between Christ’s death and resurrection.  Allow grief to surface, walk through its messy, ugly challenges remembering that your “in between” days do matter.

In the days ahead, what are you learning as you work through loss or grief?  I would love to hear from you!

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