Everyone lives amid loss. And not one person can put a measure to the weight of the heaviness one must carry. Grief is the burdensome ache that is heavy to carry but has no substance. It is not the piled upon mass of things that creates the burden of grief, it is the absence. The empty. The loss. Its the unfinished and incomplete.
The Weight of Absence
And how can an empty absence be measured?
One of the phrases I have often used at funeral services speaks a hard truth. From the abstract idea of death or absence, I try to acknowledge the concrete loss. It is the space that’s left vacant. The empty chair. The favorite mug left unused. Even the bowl now gone dry, the empty dog collar, and leash unused.
Each loss is a reminder of the unfinished and incomplete. Through life, losses mount. And the weight of that can be hard if it weren’t for the ability to find gratitude for the time of presence. Stories remembering the times of companionship. Stories shared reveal the ongoing gift and miracle of grace.
We All Walk the Same Earth
Ages ago, a renegade monk from Assisi named Francis began to preach. Among his listeners were all creatures. The burden of this broken world was not only being lifted from humans by the peace of Jesus, but also all God’s creatures. From earthworms in the path, to birds in the trees, the just and compassionate peace of God was announced to all creatures. Even a wild dog, a wolf really, that terrorized the town of Gubbio. When the chasm between the people of the town and the wolf was bridged by the care of Francis, the frightening beast became the town’s friend and sentinel.
Francis, as well as all of us who love a dog, even if not as fearsome as a wolf, know the same truth. We all walk on the same earth. Our water and air and earth is shared. We are all part of a creation yearning to be complete. And we can have the joy of living in a paradise-like life together.
The paradise hoped for by the ancient Hebrew prophets is known by us who know in our bones that we need furry partners to make us more human. We get to see a glimpse of what the Hebrew prophets saw:
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent—its food shall be dust
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain, says the Lord. (Is 65.25)
So, for this little guy, Gai, there’s a silence. A space. An emptiness. Remembering a floppy ear, puppy fur, wet nose. It is all the heavy weight of absence that can’t but hurt, yet lead toward humble gratitude. The desire for one more month, week, day, moment meets reality. Love never is satisfied, “love never ends” (1 Cor. 13.8). There’s never enough. But the grace of the moments received, the time granted, the memories held in the heart, these persist.