|Harley, top; Molly Anne, left; and Phoenix|
It’s often hiding in plain sight, but sometimes -- like a monster in a horror movie -- it reaches out and grabs you by the throat.
That happened to me three times this past week.
It began last Saturday, when I posted about the death of our family dog, Phoebe.
I shared the post publicly on Facebook, but soon reset the privacy settings to “friends only” due to the personal nature of the supportive comments.
Many friends shared about their own relationships with their family dogs, and the overriding theme was how much they treasured the unconditional love they had experienced.
Several posted photos of their dogs, and they shared heart-rending stories.
Pictured here are Phoenix, who my cousin described as “our destroyer of worlds”; Molly Anne, “in the winter of her years”; and Harley, a 16-year-old lab who died this past December.
“I still pretty much cry about him once a day,” wrote Harley’s owner. She went on to express something others also hinted at: “Losing a beloved dog is so hard because they've given us pure, unconditional love every day. They've never judged, hurt or disappointed us. They never rejected us or tried to fix us. They just loved us, without reservation, no strings attached.”
Another friend who recently said goodbye to a beloved dog, Marino, said her son looks up at the sky every morning and waves to his pet in Doggy Heaven. Still another friend said he lost his last dog five years ago and still looks for her face at the window whenever he pulls into his driveway.
I was so touched, and grateful, to read these comments.
Mothers, after all, are the personification of unconditional love, and yet I am guilty of having taken this for granted in my own life.
Planning to drive Mom to visit my late Dad’s older brother, Julian, I had prepared myself with questions to ask her while we were alone in the car.
My colleagues at Verizon had devised a Mother’s Day social media promotion -- #callmom -- designed to bring together mothers and their adult children to have a conversation they haven’t had before. I had two questions to ask Mom: What’s the single thing you would do differently if you could go back in time? What has surprised you most about how your life has unfolded?
To my surprise, Mom answered each question thoughtfully during our long drive. To my further surprise, I learned nothing new about Mom -- except that, touchingly, she is currently reading “Conversations in Heaven,” a book about five individuals who are greeted after death by their shared guardian angel.
I thought, “Ah-ha! So Mom’s been honest with me all these years!” The nerve of her; she has no great regrets, and she is filled with gratitude about her life.
Then we arrived at Julian’s, and I saw the way the two old friends -- who had shared a great love for my father -- greeted each other.
I saw PDUL. A public display of unconditional love.
The day after that, I left on a business trip to Jacksonville.
Having never been there before, I tried to soak in everything in just two days. “Soak” being the operative word, since it rained nearly non-stop. Still, I managed to get some sunrise photos at Atlantic Beach — and a bit of an education during the Lyft rides to and from the airport.
So many churches, so many different denominations, in so many different styles of buildings… some even looked to be former office buildings. I was particularly struck by this because, lately, I’ve been noticing all the churches that surround my home in New Jersey too.
Why all the churches, I wondered?
Just then, a monster ray of sunlight broke through the clouds and highlighted a sign outside one of the passing buildings: “All Are Welcome Here,” it read. “Come Worship With Us,” read another sign down the road. And, “Whoever Prayed for the Rain, Please Pick Another Subject!”
Churches are filled with the promise of friendship, forgiveness and redemption. It doesn’t matter who you are, you’re accepted as soon as you walk through the doors.
How often do we ignore all the welcoming signs, and all the invitations to grace that surround us?
Thank you to friends who offered condolences for Phoebe, and thanks to Mom, and thanks to the surrounding churches for reminding me this week that unconditional love is a mighty force, one that should never be taken for granted.
Like my cousin’s dog Phoenix, it is the destroyer of worlds.
|Sunrise in Jacksonville|