Sunday, July 22, 2012

Grief

Our sweet Bogey from less than a month ago
A few days ago I had to change the profile on this blog to read "I live in Brooklyn, New York with my husband and 4 cats" to "I live in Brooklyn, New York with my husband and 3 cats."  We lost our precious Bogey, pictured at left, last Tuesday.  He had been diagnosed last January with pleural effusion, which means fluid on the lungs.  It got quite bad the last few weeks, and we had him operated on this past Tuesday.  He died shortly after the surgery.  He was only 7 years old.

For those who have never loved an animal, you will have no idea what I'm talking about.  But for those who have had their hearts stolen by one of God's beautiful creatures, you will know intimately the pain that I feel in my heart. 

I have had more than one person say to me that it is just too painful to lose them, so they refuse to have another cat or dog because they can't stand to go through the pain again.  They so want to avoid the inevitable pain that comes from losing what they love that they will give up the joy of love itself.  And that is a terrible mistake. 

Everything in this life, including our own lives, is temporary.  Because of sin, everything in this world will die and fade away.  Everyone you love is going to eventually betray you if in no other way than that they are going to die and leave you, if you don't betray them by dying first.  And it will hurt, you will feel like your heart is being torn out of your chest.  In fact, the deeper you love, the more brutal the pain.  That is the price of love in this world, and there is no escaping it, except, of course, if you choose not to love at all.  But if that is the path you have taken, you have not only rejected love, you have rejected life itself.  As Simon and Garfunkel sang back in the 60's, "I am a rock, I am an island, and a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries." 
Our Blessed Mother Holding Her Dead Son In Her Arms,
who died a bloody painful death to save us
The symbol of Christianity, true Christianity, is Christ on the cross, with his arms outstretched, completely naked (we added the loincloth out of modesty), completely vulnerable, shedding his blood so that we can be saved from eternal death.  This is the truest picture of love that the world has ever seen or will ever see.  If Christ had shied away from the pain, we would all be eternally condemned.  Our Lord not only had to suffer the physical pain of the crucifixion, he had to suffer rejection and hatred from the very ones he was dying for.  If our Blessed Mother had not been willing to open her heart, if she had not been willing to suffer the sword that pierced her heart as Simeon had prophesied, Christ could not have become man and poured out his human blood to save mankind.  If we are not willing to love, which means opening our heart to suffering, there can be no life. 

Bogey at the top of the cat tree
with his friends, Cagney and Emily
To choose to avoid the suffering that comes from loving an animal is not a sin.  But if we choose to avoid the suffering that comes from loving other human beings, who are made in the image of God and for whom He died, then we have sinned and cut ourselves off from life itself. 

There was a beautiful movie made back in the mid 1990's called "Shadowlands", based on the true story of C.S. Lewis and his wife, Joy.  Joy was an American who had fled to England to escape an abusive, alcoholic and adulterous husband.  She asked "Jack" to marry her so that she could have English citizenship and stay in the country.  He married her as a favor with no intention of ever being a real husband to her.  Shortly after they were married, she was diagnosed with inoperable cancer.  He suddenly realized he loved her and took her and her son into his home and took care of her.  His love for her grew very deep. 

Below is a scene from the movie where Joy discusses her impending death with Jack.  She tries to tell him that the joy they feel in being together cannot be separated from the pain he will endure when she dies.  As she says, "the pain then is part of the happiness now.  That's The Deal"  To reject the pain means also to reject the happiness.



After Joy dies, Jack struggles with his grief, getting very angry at God, unable to deal with the great loss and pain he is feeling.  Finally, the wisdom of what Joy tried to explain to him begins to break through.  He realizes that to reject the suffering also means to reject the great happiness he felt with her.  Below is the last scene of the movie in which Jack explains that he understands what Joy tried to tell him.  When he was a young boy and his mother died, he just hid away from both the love and pain he felt for her.  He chose "safety."  As a man, he chose love, which means he chose suffering. 



The good news is that as Christians, we can take this further.  The suffering we feel now is a part of the unending happiness we will experience with our Saviour for all eternity.  Our suffering now is what will lead us into an eternity of complete happiness and bliss.  The last chapter in the last book of the Bible, Revelation 21, gives us this preview:

1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth was gone, and the sea is now no more.
2 And I John saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them. And they shall be his people; and God himself with them shall be their God.
4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away.
5 And he that sat on the throne, said: Behold, I make all things new. And he said to me: Write, for these words are most faithful and true.
A New Heaven and a New Earth
As we say in the prayer at the end of the Rosary to our Blessed Mother, "To Thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears."  As our Lord told us in the sermon on the mount, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."  Unless we are willing to mourn on this earth, to experience and even embrace our suffering just as Christ embraced His Cross, we cannot experience the comforting love of our Saviour in heaven.   If you run away from your suffering, which is your cross, you are also running away from your reward in heaven.

That's the deal.

Thank you Bogey, for sharing your sweet life with us.  Rest in peace, my little prince.


Bogey with his friend Cagney

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