This last Sunday was Easter for those of us in the Western church. My usual inclination is to discuss theory such as the significance of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus and to consider how these elements effect salvation; however tonight I have a touching anecdote – the sort that typically sets my teeth on edge. But since it’s my story, I have a tad more grace for its presence.
Anyway, I wrote this last July:
Emily had another episode tonight due to her heart murmur. She either has a seizure or faints because she is not getting enough oxygen (I’m not sure exactly), but when she comes back she starts crying out, yelping. It’s sad, but she seems to feel well eighty percent of the time, so my parents have not killed her (aka “put her down”). Half the time she does have energy, and the other times when she is clearly extra tired, she still gives a smile when I pet her. Anyway, whenever she has an episode, my mother and father and I all gather around her and comfort her, replete with towels because inevitably, fainting causes her to make a puddle on the floor or worse. Emily is weaker after she faints, and she doesn’t have the strength to get up right away.
Tonight, she was was having an extra hard time getting back up after her episode. I noticed she was not smiling, at all. Her puppy dog mouth was rather drawn up in pain, and my mother curled up on the floor with Emily on the rug in front of the bathroom. I know my mother loves Emily. My mother is not the sort of person who frequently sits on the floor, much less lay on the floor. I remember [let’s call him “Winston”], the husband of [let’s call her “Charlotte”], a whimsical woman of the North Shore who paid me a pretty penny in my seminary days to fold Winston’s boxers and make cranberry sauce with her every Saturday. One Saturday morning I found Winston curling up under the table with one of his dogs. They had two German Shepherds, and one of the dogs had just died. And Charlotte informed me that Winston’s mother had also just died. And he was laying under the kitchen table. A distinguished New England banker, whom I assume was wealthy because of his elegant ten room Victorian mansion filled with antiques and curiosities, curled in a ball with his dog under the kitchen table – it was quite a sight. Anyway, seeing my mother genuinely loving her dog and humbly curling up with the dog on the floor made me think of Winston and God…Was Jesus’ coming God’s way of curling up with us on the floor, desperate for us to live, not out of his own ego-needs, but from genuine love and sympathy…?
My apologies for being overly-sentimental. But Winston and my mother paint a picture for me of the humility of love. Their love and humility were both shrouded in grief. But the details of their stories are different. My mother felt compassion for her suffering dog and probably felt grief in anticipation of her doggy’s death. The banker was already in the depths of despair from two deaths and was seeking comfort from the remaining dog. But they both literally lowered themselves, abandoning propriety.
The passion of Jesus and the events of Good Friday and Easter are hardly encapsulated with the picture of mature adults wallowing on the floor with their dogs. But what really captured my imagination when I saw my mother on the floor with her dog was the picture of compassionate love. And imagining, just maybe, God loves us with a compassionate love that could not be less heartfelt than my mother’s. By the way, Emily passed away this fall.