By Clyde Davis
On a very rainy and thunder-smitten Friday night, Good Friday to be precise, Dinky slipped quietly out an open gate and made his way to the place where he had decided to die.
Normally he would not have ventured into the dark and the storm. He was, however, as dogs sometimes are, following the call of some unseen voice that told him it was time to go.
At fifteen years of age, he was losing his senses and was on heart medication. He seemed, however, to still be enjoying life and no one will ever know what internal urging told him that the time had arrived.
For three days we looked, pounding the rain-drenched alleys and streets. Bonnie, our young dog, grew frustrated with her own inability to “find Dinky!” — he was, after all, her adopted dad.
Grieving is a part of life, and a process of life, the inevitable result of any number of circumstances. It is an aspect that we Americans, victims of our quick fix mentality, don’t seem to handle very well.
Witness the insensitivity that would ask a recently motherless or fatherless daughteror son about plans to “just get on with your life.” Witness the frustration of a recent widow or widower because they cannot seem to “get over it.” Witness the lack of awareness that grief is not simply tied to death, but any of life’s changes, some of these positive.
After all, change is inevitable. When it happens remember these snippets of information:
n Recognize that life has changed. It will never “go back” to what it was. We of western culture are so enraptured with a world view that urges us to arrive at some fictional place that we fail to remember life is a journey.
n Admit that, even if the change is positive, it may bring a grief reaction. Your promotion at work will change your relationship with your co-workers, who are now under your supervision. Your graduation means the loss of your student status and its relaxed lifestyle. The birth of a baby means any number of changes for everyone in the family unit.
n Remember that grieving does not mean that you are bad, weak, or unstable. Know that, even while you are grieving, you will laugh and shout with joy and your life and love journey will go on — but you may, inexplicably, go in and out of grief.
n If you are unsure whether your grief is healthy, seek perspective from others, professionals and/or friends. It is normal and healthy for me, upon seeing a black and white border collie, to feel fond memories, love, and loss for Candy, the dog of my childhood. It would not be healthy or normal for me to obsess and cry constantly for that dog. After all, she crossed the Rainbow Bridge almost 25 years ago.
n Constructively use your grief. Cancer causes me to grieve for my favorite aunt and my granddad, but I can use that energy in training for the Ride for the Roses, a long-distance fundraising bike ride for cancer.
n Remember that you are not alone. All humans, and evidence seems to indicate animals, grieve.
Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico.
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