My sister had to put this little guy to sleep this morning. At 6¼, he had a long and beautiful life. Mr. Skeffington was a very special little pig, and he will be much missed.
Pets probably won’t outlive us, and sometimes give us pause to consider mortality. Don’t be lulled into the false comfort of muddling through. Don’t be distracted by all the unimportant things in life and miss life’s fragility and preciousness. We live life in a tension between now and eternity. If you have been duped into the false idea that each moment as it comes is the only thing that matters, you are living a lie (and attempting an impossibility). Yet to live only in the past for nostalgia or regret, or to look only to the hope and promise of the future is equally wrong; missing every moment of today because you are looking only to yesterday or tomorrow is just as wrong.
I will never cease to sing the praise that life — always, and whether you like it or not — is a very precious gift. Life is always beautiful — even amid suffering, even in the darkest moments, and even in death. Life is still life, and everything about life is an unfathomable miracle — is it so much an unfathomable miracle as to be completely beyond our power to comprehend its miraculousness? Life, even in suffering, can bring gifts and love to others. Life isn’t just “muddling through” and “taking up space” in the world, life (no matter how small) matters. Yes, even the ants and roaches and the germs that make me sick matter…they just happen to be enjoying their sanctity of life in my personal space, and my sense of self-preservation rules that they have to go.
But life — even amid pain, suffering, sadness, and death — is profoundly beautiful. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever allow yourself to forget it. Life is dirty, messy, painful, shocking, uncomfortable — sometimes unbearable even — but still a very precious gift. Never deny that, dismiss it, forget it.
There really isn’t a place for the idea of “an animal” in my mind. By no means do I discount humanity’s distinction as the creatures made in the image of God, but I know I am but soul and dust, and if I am alive on this planet I am just as fragile and made of dust (and to return to dust) as every other creature. I have been in the presence of death — of the very moment of death — many times. It isn’t pretty, but you know what? Birth isn’t that pretty either. Life is beautiful and precious, it just is. And while I suppose I understand their perspective on some level, I’m always left generally speechless when people argue that the #1 reason they do not want a pet (especially when they could seriously use the love and companionship) is that they can’t deal with death. Don’t get me wrong, I have fallen on my face howling over the death of belovèd pets, but it just seems so wrong to deny oneself the deep love and joy possible in sharing life with others — pets or humans — if our focus is on the idea that we will someday lose them to death.
Mortality makes me want to love more, not less.
I was reading a passage from Thomas Merton’s autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain yesterday afternoon as I ended up on an accidental bus misadventure through a good portion of Los Angeles. As he introduced his thoughts on the delight of discovering the life and writings of St. Thérèse of Lisieux (her autobiographical reflection, The Story of a Soul, is in queue for me to read after I finish The Seven Story Mountain), Merton wrote the following reflection:
It is a wonderful experience to discover a new saint. For God is greatly magnified and marvelous in each one of His saints: differently in each individual one. There are no two saints alike: but each of them is like God, like Him in a different and special way. In fact, if Adam had never fallen, the whole human race would have been a series of magnificently different and splendid images of God, each one of all the millions of men showing forth His glories and perfections in an astonishing new way, and each one shining with his own particular sanctity, a sanctity destined for him from all eternity as the most complete and unimaginable supernatural perfection of his human personality.
If, since the fall, this plan will never be realized in millions of souls, and millions will frustrate that glorious destiny of theirs, and hide their personality in an eternal corruption of disfigurement, nevertheless, in re-forming His image in souls distorted and half destroyed by evil and disorder, God makes the works of His wisdom and love all the more strikingly beautiful by reason of the contrast with the surroundings in which He does not disdain to operate.
Just stop and think about that for a minute…that as completely messed-up as the created order is, as completely messed-up as we make it — as completely unnecessary as we are for God’s completeness or sovereignty (and, arguably, things would probably be a lot less messy for God if we didn’t keep messing them up) — God doesn’t just “tolerate” us, he loves us. Indeed, if we are his saints as disciples of Christ, we are his adopted sons and daughters as co-heirs to the very Kingdom of Heaven with Christ (see Ephesians 1:3-14).
For if God thought life was that beautiful and precious, do we not owe it to him to consider a little bit on its beauty and preciousness ourselves?
Life is beautiful and precious, but so too is death a part of life. I will miss my sassy, fuzzy, silly little Skeffy friend very much, but I also know that I always wish to live with as much joy and love as he did. I always wonder why it is that — so often — the lesson which our fellow creatures can teach us is how to truly embrace and enjoy this very precious gift that is…life. — VKS