Cassie (black labrador) died last week. I couldn’t write about it at the time, was too busy crying. She was old for a lab – 14 – and she was losing the feeling in her back legs, pooped without knowing it and her sight and hearing were pretty much gone. I didn’t mind clearing up after her, I owed her that much, she has given the family so much joy over the years. And until recently she has seemed happy enough. She mainly slept but so did the old cat and they snuggled together in her bed, so she had company, she still got excited at meal times and once a day she would go for a plod around the garden. But then she stopped wagging her tail and began to seem frightened by things, so it seemed kinder to let her go. Horrible decision. I had so hoped I would just find her dead one morning but in the end we felt it was time to take her to the vets, to put her to sleep before her life became a torment of fear at not seeing and unhappiness if I didn’t clean up her bed fast enough.
Although I knew she was ready to go, that it was the kindest thing to do, it was still hard, I still cried most of the weekend. It also makes me look harshly at life when someone/something I cherish dies. What is the point of it all? Life is so short, such a brief time of healthy happiness before we all decline, what is it that keeps us going? Why do we strive so hard to stay alive? And how will I cope when/if I lose those closest to me?
I look at the elderly people we cook for on Fridays. Most of them were married, had children, jobs, hobbies. Yet now, for the most part, they live alone, they cope with everything by themselves as their bodies deteriorate and everything gets harder. It seems to them like yesterday that they were vibrant, powerful in their own life, now they are becoming more and more dependent on others. How does that feel? How will I cope when that happens to me?
Maybe we are not meant to look ahead too far. If we trust in God (and deep down I do, I just have blips every so often, times when it all seems a bit scary ahead) then perhaps trusting him is all that matters. We do not know when or how our life will end, only that it will and that was always part of the plan, an intended consequence of having lived. Perhaps it is the now that matters, rather than the past or the future.
I know that what is in my past is finished, that those things I am proud of are not important anymore, that the things I did wrong have been forgiven. The future is a void, I cannot even predict what will happen this afternoon, in the next hour, I can only make a good guess and plan accordingly. But now, this actual moment in time, is mine. I can decide what I will do, how I will act, think, behave. And because I do not know what will happen in the next hour, what phone calls I might receive, accidents or happy surprises, then the most sensible thing would be to rely on God.
We are on a timeline, we can see the past, live in the present but the future is invisible.
(As an aside, did you know that the chinese language actually shows this in the words it uses. So the future is ‘behind’ you, because you cannot see it. It is like sitting on a train looking backwards. All the words relating to past are in front, before, you and all the words relating to future are behind you. I love that language!)
However, God is outside of time, above the line if you like. He can see my past and future and present all at the same time. So surely it makes sense to ask him for help when I live my present, to ask for his guidance as I stumble through this bit of life, doing the best that I can.
I guess if I am honest, I don’t really know what ‘the point of life’ is, especially when I get to the really tough, lonely bits of it. But God does, I really do think he has a plan and so I will just trust him on this one. I will cry for my dog, because I miss her, but I will know that her life (and mine) are not futile. There is a point, I just don’t know it yet.
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