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Through The Tears In Love's Eyes

© 1994 Jerry D. Babb

I would like to take this opportunity to share with you a tragic event which recently unfolded in our lives. After 12 years of devoted companionship and unconditional love, it became necessary that we have our beloved dog, Scruffy, euthanized. Those of you who share our love of animals will well understand that which I shall relate.

Scruffy arrived in our lives, quite unexpectedly, approximately twelve years ago. She was very young, although no longer a puppy, and had, apparently, been abandoned. When she wandered into our yard, the last thing that I desired was another dog (we had four at the time), and, as a result, I did all, that I knew to do, to discourage any attachment. In appearance, she was mangy, unkempt, wet, and wild looking (hence the name, Scruffy). Her coat was matted, disheveled, and covered with burs, but her big, brown eyes danced with joy, happiness, and love.

I refused to allow her in the house, nor would I permit her near our other dogs . It was my hope that she would become discouraged and move elsewhere, but that was not to be. My position quickly softened, as I gazed into those loving eyes. I was concerned that she would be hit by a car or, perhaps, starve. Over a period of a few days, having weighed the various options, I took her to our veterinarian for a check-up. I discovered that she had been left to her own devices for quite some time. Her stomach contents indicated that she had been living on a steady diet of grasses and sticks. She was, in fact, slowly starving to death. Otherwise, her health was excellent. There were, however, signs that she had been abused and beaten. Her nasal passages were impaired, and, as a result, she had some difficulty breathing.

The vet advised me that, to the best of his ability, he believed her to be a collie/shepherd mix. Certainly no pedigree here. Now I had a decision to make. I could take her to the local animal shelter, where she would be euthanized; or, I could do as her previous owner had done, and turn her loose; or, I could adopt her as my own. In as much as options one and two were inconceivable, Scruffy was administered her various inoculations, and welcomed into the Babb family.

She quickly endeared herself to one and all, including the other dogs. Her eyes ever sparkled and danced, almost laughing, while that bushy tail never seemed to stop wagging. I recall that, many times, her tail would wag while she seemed lost in the deepest sleep.

Shortly following her entrance into our lives, the other dogs began, one-by-one, to pass away. We had adopted them all as tiny puppies, and now they were succumbing to old age. It seemed much as though we were losing our children, for we loved them dearly. Although the passing of each imposed sorrow, suffering, and grief, I can look back now, and see that Scruffy helped us bear the losses. She, too, was affected by their passing, yet she drew ever nearer my wife and I. To the best of her ability, she attempted to allay our suffering.

Through the years a bond developed between Scruffy and I. She was ever ready to give, while I was ever ready to take. During the course of my days on this earth, hers was nearest that unconditional love, of which Scripture speaks and our Savior forever displays, that I have personally, physically encountered. There were no hidden agendas where Scruffy was concerned.

Here was one, who as a youngster, was beaten, abused, and, finally, discarded; cast away to fend for herself. I know not what horrors she encountered, nor what pain she suffered prior to her entry into my life, but I do know that I would not have reacted as she.

I would have become bitter, cynical, hardened, and, more than likely, vengeful; all opposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ. She did none of these things. The reverse was true. She loved everyone with whom she made the slightest contact. She had the rare gift of being able to accept and turn her pains and hurts into love; a love which she generously bestowed and freely gave.

She never met a stranger, for she welcomed everyone into her life as a friend. She embraced the world, seeing past the evil, the danger, the threats to her person, until she was able to discover a seed of goodness, and it was that goodness that she would eagerly welcome. In her world, there were never gloomy thoughts, rainy days, or unpleasant situations.

In a world of grays, where mankind is self-absorbed and motivated by self-interest, and where love is principally the love and furtherance of self, she was quite special, for she placed the well-being of others above herself.

There were countless instances, when consumed by external or personal matters, where I would, undeservedly, lose my patience with her, but she countered with mildness, meekness, eternal patience, and, above all else, love. There was so much that I took for granted; so much that I accepted without thought or gratitude. She seemed to be ever by my side, yet, for the most part, I took her for granted. Sound familiar?

As her health began to fail, she developed crippling arthritis. She had great difficulty walking, and was no longer able to climb steps, nor was she able to navigate obstacles without stumbling and falling. I wish that I could say that I shared her pain, but I cannot. To the contrary, she shared mine. She would sit by my side, and those beautiful brown eyes would radiate love. I will never forget her eyes. To the very end of her life, when her pain and suffering were greatest, when she could no longer walk, and each breath was drawn through the coarsest toil and labor, those eyes danced, sparkled, and shone with love and mercy.

Throughout her ordeal, she never complained. Occasionally, when sleeping, she would moan softly, or, when attempting to walk, she might stifle a short cry of anguish; otherwise, she ignored her own discomfort, choosing instead, to concentrate her attention on those to whom she had devoted her life.

Eventually, that heart which had continued to expand in love, caring, and compassion, could grow no larger. She had loved so many with such intensity, that that great heart grew faint, fluttered, and gently fell asleep. She did not struggle, nor rail against death, but akin to all who had entered her life, friend or foe, she embraced it and enveloped it with her love. Closing her eyes and breathing a final sigh, she went to sleep.

Yes, she was a stray dog of mixed breed and unknown parentage. She had no pedigree, and would never be welcomed on the basis of her appearance, but she had something far greater than all of the superficial qualities which the world holds so dear—she loved; unconditionally, unreservedly—she loved. She ever placed others above herself and, with her dying breath, she loved.

This little, stray dog gave me so much more than I ever gave her, and taught me by example the true meaning of: patience, unselfishness, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, caring about and placing the welfare of others above self, and, first and foremost, she taught me the truth of unconditional love.

How did I respond to her passing? Did I fall to my knees and thank God for the many years that we had been blessed to share? No. Instead of glorifying God and bowing to His wisdom, I, blinded by my grief, lashed out at Omnipotence. I did not follow the advise of Job's wife, I did not curse God. I did, however, question God. I wanted to know, "Why?" Why had this innocent creature been forced to suffer and die?

She had demonstrated those very attributes which I ever struggle to attain, only to discover, that I fail much more often than succeed. She had hurt no one. On the contrary, she seemed to love without condition.

Shortly thereafter, reason intervened. I had questioned the wisdom of God. I had dishonored He who had created me, and He who had given me life, for the express purpose of, in all things, glorifying Him. While begging His forgiveness and mercy, it occurred to me, that, had Scruffy lived another five, ten, or twenty years, it would have never been long enough. Do you not find this to be the case? Regardless of how much time we are allotted, it is never deemed an appropriate time to lose one whom we love. Abraham and Sarah were blessed with far more time together than those of us who live in this age, yet Abraham grieved and mourned Sarah's passing. Abraham, 'the father of the faithful,' who ever trusted and faithfully obeyed God, mourned the passing of his wife. Did not Jacob mourn the death of Rachel, and David, the loss of Absalom? Did not Peter attempt to dissuade our Lord from His meeting with the Cross?

While it is appointed that all flesh must die, and that that which is of flesh and blood cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we do not desire to be the first to go, for we worry about those left behind. Who will care for them? Who will protect and watch over them? Who will hold them when they hurt? Who will dry their tears when they cry? Where is our trust in God? On the other hand, we do not wish to be the last to go. We are motivated, not by the best interests of our loved ones, but by self-pity and guilt. How is it possible that we grieve for one, who is now in the arms of Jesus? It is not. We grieve, not for the deceased, but for ourselves. We mourn the death of permanence, comfort, complacency, and our self-styled lives. We detest forced change.

Although, we are inculcated to know that we are but pilgrims in this world, we rail against the obvious. We are advised, nay, warned, that this world is not our home; yet we toil and labor, with ever so much effort, to make it so. We pray to God, and give thanks for His outpouring of grace; yet we decry His wisdom and providence when contradictory to our own. We speak of the glories of Heaven, and an eternity with the Good Shepherd, yet we cling to life as though we believed not in the Word of God, nor His manifold promises.

We, as Christians, tend to wistfully desire that we be made immune to sufferings and sorrows, yet Scripture is filled with case after case of God's favorites being subjected to the most horrific afflictions and torments. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, Moses, David, the prophets, the Apostles, and the Son of God Himself, were all made to endure the most exquisite of agonies. Their lives were marked by the magnitude of the sorrows and sufferings, which they were made to bear. As a child of God, you are so far from being made immune to such afflictions, that you are guaranteed a 'cross;' one tailored to meet your specific needs.

As Christians, we are obligated to ever joy in the Lord. This is not to say that we will not be afflicted by trials and tribulations; that we will not be tested; that our faith will not be tried. It is incumbent upon each of us to draw ever closer the Master when tested or tempted. When a loved one is called home, you will certainly grieve and mourn. But do not allow your grief to become a bed of self-pity and/or anger. On the contrary, give God the appreciation, thanksgiving, and glory which He is due; for He has blessed you with the love and time you were able to share, as well as the memories which you will retain throughout eternity.

In all things, seek and trust God. In faith, doubt not that 'all things work to the good of those who love God.' Were it not for loss, it is doubtful whether we could truly understand love, and the sacrifice of our Lord. Were it not for sorrow, we would find no comfort in joy. Were it not for earthly finality, could we ever comprehend and appreciate an eternity in Heaven?

Forever grow in faith, while holding fast, hope. He, or she, whom you love, if a child of God, lives on in Paradise, and will so do throughout eternity. Hold tight to the Unseen, and gaze longingly toward the true reality. While a pilgrim, you may suffer, nay, will suffer, yet brighter days beckon, and it is to that glorious future, where your thoughts and hopes should dwell and prosper. May God bless, guide, and tenderly comfort you as you sojourn in a strange land. Look evermore to the Cross, for there is found the Truth which you so desperately seek.

(From the book, A Love Eternal, by Jerry D. Babb
© 1996 White Buck Publishing)

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