Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9 NRSV)
This past year has been a year of immense transition for me, personally as well as professionally. It has been hard, to say the least. While I am aware that life is always changing and transition is a natural part of these changes, some are easier to take than others.
At the end of last March, it became clear that it was time to say goodbye to our sweet dog, Lola. I got her as a birthday present to myself at the same time that my husband and I began our relationship together. The three of us grew up together. She was, in many ways, our little girl. We went through a lot together, including four moves to new homes in three states. We were lucky to have almost 18 years together. She was truly a gift to us. Personally, her companionship got me through many difficult times that I honestly don’t know I would have been able to get through without her.
We always knew it would be hard to say goodbye to her when the time came, but we hoped she would make it clear to us. I honestly think the pandemic year, with all of us home, gave her the energy and support she needed to add almost two more years with us. However, with a dog her age, her body just couldn’t do it anymore. It was such a hard decision. I still had memories of her earlier life in my mind, remembering who she was in her prime, how good she was at “springing back” if she ever got a little under the weather, which was rare. I kept thinking maybe I could find the right medication and she could be “back to her old self.” Ultimately, we had to accept there was nothing more we could do. We were able to say goodbye to her in our home, after a day of eating all of her favorite treats, with all of us surrounding her – me, my husband, and “Grandma.”
The grief of this goodbye has been with me all year. It has made some days harder than others, especially when paired with the other transitions I’ve been living through, but it has also been a gift. It has reminded me to take my time; that I can’t force the transitions I’ve been going through to go any faster than the time it needs to take. This has helped me through our call process at Hope, helped me when grieving the loss of friends, and helped me as I took the time I needed to work through the grief of losing Lola. It has helped me appreciate each moment I have and the people who live through it with me, no matter how difficult it might be.
Losing a dog is hard. I was amazed at how quickly people were offering us a dog that “needed a good home” or a puppy their dog just had. It hadn’t even been a week and we were fending off the requests. However, Andrew and I were committed to giving ourselves all the time we needed. In fact, he wasn’t sure he ever wanted another dog. I understood that, but also knew myself and the joy that a dog could bring to our lives.
Around Christmas, we began talking about maybe getting another dog, but waiting until summer. A part of me was eager for a new dog, but most of me was okay with continuing to take our time. How could we ever find a dog as amazing as our Lola? What I didn’t know was that Andrew was already talking with one of his customers about puppies that had just been born in January. It wasn’t until March of 2023 that he told me about the possibility. By April 1st, I was picking up our new black Labrador, Shippo.
I had a faint idea that we got Shippo near the anniversary of losing Lola, but didn’t know for sure until looking over my calendar today as I wrote this. We picked up our new puppy a year and two days after saying goodbye to Lola. How does that happen? We surely didn’t plan for it to be such a perfect kind of timing. All we knew is we were taking the time we needed and when it was right, the right dog would show up. That is exactly what happened.
Our lives are now full of puppy joy (and exhaustion). Shippo has his own personality, gifts, and challenges. We will never have to worry about replacing Lola because they are each their own unique selves. She is still present in my heart, which has grown even more to hold the love for our new dog. The gifts through transition and grief continue to reveal themselves, as long as I am willing to sit with it and stay aware through it.
Our lives will never be the way they were ten years ago with our first dog. Sure it was great. She was trained and we had everything figured out together. But now, we have entered a new adventure, a new journey with our new pup. New life awaits us, but we needed to not only take the necessary time to be prepared for it, but also say yes to the gift that presented itself when the time was right.
Joshua was chosen to be the new leader of the Israelites before Moses died. He was the leader who saw God’s people to the Promised Land in a way Moses never could. Though they faced immense change and transition together, God was – and is – present through it all. It is easy to be frightened when facing an unknown future. It is also easy to be dismayed as you reflect on what you have lost, how things used to be, and that they will never be the same again. Many of us are in this situation with our congregations. Even more of us are dealing with a similar struggle in our personal lives. Yet, gifts through it all are available to us if we are willing to sit in the discomfort of change, take the time we need, and pay attention. New leaders are rising around us. New ways of doing things are emerging to bring us new direction, focus, and vision. God is with us through it all and has something in store for us that none of us can imagine. We need to take the first, risky steps to say yes to the New Way that is just ahead of us. God has not brought us this far to abandon us. Be strong and courageous. Say yes and step forward into all that awaits us, knowing God is with us the whole way.
Let us pray...
God, life is full of as much joy as pain, but you are with us through it all. Fill us with courage to sit with the hard stuff, as well as say yes to the new things that await us. Open our eyes to recognize the gifts that surround us, the people who accompany us through the transitions of life, and all that you have given us. Thank you for this messy, beautiful thing called life. Amen.
This Post Has 4 Comments
Thank you for these words. They really spoke to me.
Casey, you have a real gift for meaningful story-telling.
Beautiful writing Casey! Thanks for sharing.
I had to make this decision for my beloved cat. Such a hard thing to do. Thank you for this.