In ways almost incomprehensible to describe, because I believe in Jesus, peace fills my heart during times of sorrow or grief. A feeling of warmth and light comes into my mind and heart and, if I let it, overcomes grief and pain.
I’ll share an example of how peace prevailed during a really difficult experience with our bulldog Stig.
We received the call that our bulldog Stig had two inoperable tumors visible on a CT scan. The masses were in such unusual places in his brain and throat that the specialist couldn’t safely take samples to see if they were cancerous tumors. She said we could try chemo on Stig, but she couldn’t wholeheartedly recommend it since she didn’t know if the tumors were malignant or inflammatory or what.
He’d had a grand mal seizure eight days before and hadn’t totally recovered. He constantly seemed dazed and confused with other abnormal characteristics suddenly surfacing.
The diagnosis wasn’t a huge surprise but still felt devastating. We don’t have children and fur babies help comfort that ache for us.
We rescued Stig as a puppy six years ago three weeks after our bulldog Wellington died from a brain tumor. We watched Wellington’s rapid decline in shock. In three months, Wellington went from a vibrant dog to a shell of himself, incapable of reasoning. He was only four years old.
The week of Christmas, we made the painful decision to put Wellington down on December 26, 2013. On Christmas Day, Anthony made Wellington a huge steak and hand-fed him. For a moment, Wellington perked up. We took him up the canyon where he used to love romping and playing in the snow. When Anthony lifted him from the truck to the ground, Wellington just stood in the snow, so confused and lost. He never took a step.
The thought of experiencing that type of loss again bubbled grief to the surface. And with that grief came all the rest.
I’d just finished silently mourning the anniversary of the stillborn death of my brother and sister-in-law’s little girl named after me. A dear friend I shared Jesus with named her daughter after me. She died hours after her birth during the summer, too.
Stig’s decline dredged up every summer miscarriage and worse, the feeling that everything intimately associated with me dies prematurely.
He Had Been So Full of Life
We drove to pick up our Stig from the clinic—quiet, then full of words, then crying and quiet again. We couldn’t believe it. Stig is only six. He was so full of life.
Because of COVID, the clinic asked us to park outside and call when we arrived. We paid our bill over the phone. The vet tech gave us discharge information. We talked to the specialist again because we wondered if Stig would feel pain if we tried to adapt him to his previous activities. She didn’t think he’d be hurt by riding in his bike trailer or laying on a paddleboard.
We waited. And waited.
Finally, we saw a vet tech walking ever so slowly with our buddy. Stig clearly hadn’t recovered from anesthesia yet. He’d peed all over himself. He couldn’t stand very well.
We jumped out of the truck to meet them. Stig’s eyes stared off into some faraway space. He didn’t seem to know us. Once he stopped, he couldn’t move towards the truck again.
Anthony gingerly lifted him into the back of the truck. I quickly got in the passenger seat so I could help him as he came up to where he usually stood or sat by us. But Stig didn’t move from where Anthony put him. He was so lost about what to do next.
I climbed over the seat to the back and steadied Stig while Anthony sat his back legs down and I moved his front legs forward so he could lay down. His breathing increased as his stress rose. I decided to sit with him back there while we drove the 20 minutes home.
Anthony began the journey home. I held Stig in place against the centrifugal forces as we turned right or left. He stared blankly into space with his new throaty, gargled, weird breathing.
We couldn’t believe it. He was so much worse than when we’d dropped him off nine hours earlier.
Here Is Hope
As we merged onto the interstate, Anthony told me to look out the front window.
I saw the sun bursting through clouds, this symbol so tender and familiar to me, its rays falling like a gushing waterfall from Heaven to Earth, illuminated our path and flooded my heart with a deep, profound peace. My mind suddenly filled with music.
MARY: He who healed our sorrows
Here was bruised and broken
He whose love no end knows
Here was forsaken, Left all alone.
Here despair cries boldly,
Claiming this it’s vict’ry.
Sweeter peace enfolds me:
Hope did not die here,
But here was given.
Here is Hope.
He who was rejected,
He knows well my longing
He, so long expected,
Carried our burdens,
Bore ev’ry sorrow:
Here is Hope!
CHOIR: Here is love unbounded
Here is all compassion
Here is mercy founded!
MARY: Hope did not die here,
But here was given;
And ours is the vict’ry.
Here is Hope.
(“Here Is Hope” by Rob Gardner)
We drove our doggie home. And a few days later we said goodbye. But just like every descent into soul-wrenching grief, I am changed. Hope did not die here, but here was given. And ours is the victory because He is Hope.