Find the joy, and hope, after the losses

Sweet, gentle Phoebe doesn’t like to say “goodbye.” And I understand exactly how she feels. She loves to say “hello” in every way she knows. Licking, wagging, dancing, playing, and squeaking her toys.
When all the expressiveness is over, Phoebe leads the newcomer to a comfortable spot by the fire. Then she goes under the coffee table and lies down, face flat on the floor. Tail still wagging. Pleased as punch at her newfound friend.
It would take a hard soul not to feel welcomed by Phoebe.
But saying “goodbye”–now that’s a different matter. When people get ready to leave, Phoebe stays back. Way back. Her usual happy ears show sadness, with one ear pointing straight up and the other one laid down.
Her tail stops wagging.
Phoebe never goes to the door to say goodbye. And if she has the least suspicion that the whole family is leaving, she cowers back in the dark recesses of the house. Alone!
We don’t know the whole story of the beautiful white dog that’s our gift. But we do know she’s had incredible losses.
Phoebe is clearly trained to take care of her people and her house. Someone loved her a great deal. She knows the commands of a companion dog and responds to them. And she shows love by gently rubbing her soft white fur against her beloved.
It’s easy to imagine Phoebe belonged to some kind old lady who pampered and loved her until she could do it no more. And then the sweet gentle dog was taken to the pound.
I can imagine how the small frightened creature huddled in the tiny cell, with no way to understand her abandonment.
There’s so much of the human condition in Phoebe it frightens me.
With our superior gifts of speech and intellect, maybe we understand a little better about our losses than Phoebe does. But, on the other hand, sometimes our understanding only reinforces how powerless we really are to change the course of life.
By the time we arrive this side of 60, our lives are filled with memories of things that are no more. Our mothers and our grandmothers. The children who went off to college to return only on vacations. The high school classmates who died young.
The church of our childhood that burned to the ground. The jobs we once went to every day with joy and meaning.
And in all that change and loss, we haven’t been able to do a thing to stay the course of history and stop the aggressive march of time.
Life can easily overwhelm us, and giving up is a real temptation. But that’s only if we’re shortsighted and fail to see the hope that always lies beyond the grief.
Take Phoebe, for example. Her life didn’t end in the pound. In fact, the pound was just the beginning. The beginning of years of fun and dancing. Chasing toys in a new yard. Making new friends. Eating new table scraps. Watching television and snuggling with a new family.
It takes three things to survive the losses of life:
•Live today with joy and abandon so that when grief comes, you’ll have no regrets;
•Face your grief when it comes. Seek the help of those who care and the God you worship; and
•Always remember that whatever losses you have in life, the joy and hope are still waiting. It’s up to you to find them.

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