14 March 2007

Still Hanging On. Sort Of.

We've had spectacular weather the last couple of days. The nice thing about homeschooling is that we've been able to juggle our schedule so the kids can take advantage of the 75 degree sunshine. My wife had them knuckle down and do as much work as possible before 11:30 am each day...and then they got to run around and burn off a winter's worth of energy until dinner. Any school work they don't get done, they finish up in the evening after the sun goes down.

This evening, the weather started to turn. We had very strong winds out of the NE, and the temperature dropped. As I was walking in from my office, I noticed something odd: the high winds had blown the ashes off the remains of the fire I'd built to burn Tessa's body --- and there was a whole layer of coals burning bright red in the wind.

It's been three full days since I built that fire, and there's still something left. Amazing. And kind of consoling, in an unexpected way. Not to get too sentimental, but it struck me as a sign that in a small way, Tessa is still here with us. Never thought the sight of glowing embers would give me such comfort, but they did. I don't feel so alone now.

A friend sent a condolence note, and added that he really liked Tessa's "Viking Sendoff." She deserved it, he said. And his "Viking Sendoff" phrase couldn't help but make me smile.

He mentioned how much he still misses some of the dogs he grew up with, and said he still has an image in his head of those dogs running to greet him at the end of this life. I like that image, and can easily imagine Tessa and Cassie coming to meet me at the Pearly Gates.

But will they? My wife and I have worked hard to teach our children the distinction between people and animals --- and the kids are very clear about that. They don't sentimentalize the livestock, and actually look forward to butchering day. "Animals don't get to go to heaven," my wife has told them repeatedly, "because they don't have human souls."

Theologically, she's probably right. But I still like to speculate about something a little different---something a very holy priest once told me, that his mother had told him when he was a boy. When he'd asked her if the family dog would be with them in heaven, she'd given a very sage response: "If it will make you happier."

Part of me likes to picture Tessa and Cassie in heaven with us, making us even happier than we otherwise would have been, even if they with their canine souls never got to appreciate what a wonderful place it is. But, more than that, I like to think that heaven will be so good, and we will be so filled with happiness at seeing God as he is and reuniting with our families...that we won't even notice that the dogs aren't there to join us.

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