Several of you have lost pets in the recent past. There are two cats and one dog that I am aware of, each one dearly loved. It reminded me of Lena.
If you think Lena is a strange name for a cat, you are right. We didn’t name her. That was her name when we adopted her from the humane society. It was two years after Helen and I were married. We decided it was time to start a family but thought a baby kitten might be the way to ease into the additional responsibility. If we could handle a cat, maybe we could handle a child.
Kelsey was our first child. Lena was four. Lena was with us through many changes, two 600 mile moves, three homes, and the birth of three children. Collin barely got to know her, but Kelsey and Heather really became quite attached to their cat. We made sure they understood that she was old. Heather went through a phase when Lena was still quite healthy. Every so often she would burst into tears and whimper, “I don’t want Lena to die . . . ”
Pastors get asked all kinds of questions. One I get every so often is this: “Do pets go to heaven?” I suppose you might think this question through logically and conclude that an afterlife crowded with stray dogs and cats would be hell, not heaven. But when your own pet has died, a cherished member of your family, the question becomes personal. I tell people that a God who loves us and who understands how much we love these animals, each one with a personality all its own, just may make provision for us to be together again. I hope so.
Eventually Lena did die. It was after a long life. I still have the words I wrote at Heather’s dictation. She read these words at the funeral service we held in a corner of our backyard.
We are gathered here because of Lena. It’s more important than taking photographs and getting the kids to school. We are all very sad because Lena has died. We have had her for a long time. Now she is 16 and a half. That is why we are here, because of Lena’s death. Other kids won’t know because it’s behind a bush. We are all very sad and I know Lena misses us and we miss Lena very much. We might cry when I say this. We didn’t take her to the doctor because we knew it was time for her to die. We are so, so, so sad, but now we are OK. We are not crying any more. Lena is stiff. Lena’s body will turn to dust. It has been a lot of years. Now I am 6 and 7/8 and that’s all.
Whenever I learn of the death of a pet, I think of Lena. I remember my grief and Heather’s 17 years ago. I know you are grieving, too. Grief is the price we pay for love. That applies to animals and people. I think it’s worth the price. Don’t you? And that’s all.