In Memory of Sparkle

Our doggie pal, Sparkle, went to doggie heaven today.  After a decade of living with us, he is now resting peacefully and pain free.  The past year was a hard one on him with several recurring infections that just wouldn’t go away even with multiple rounds of antibiotics.  Despite his illnesses, he kept amazing us with his energy level.  He was one tough dog.

He was a loyal friend who had a rough start in life when we met him at a cocker spaniel rescue home.  He was looking for a family and didn’t hesitate one bit when we opened the car door that day; he jumped right on in and came home with us.  He loved flipping over on his back for tummy rubs and dragging us on walks (we never could train him to heel).

He survived the addition of two kids to the household and treated them well, except for the occasional times he managed to snatch a waffle or cracker out of their hands when they were toddlers (the kids have since grown taller and smarter).  He was our first pet, the eldest “grandchild” as my mom liked to call him, as well as, our first “guinea pig” for parenting practice.  I’m thankful for all the lessons he taught us and how he got me accustomed to cleaning up pee and poop long before the kids came along.

E and Sparkle a few years ago…

I’m most thankful for the conversation he sparked tonight between the kids and me after we told them he had passed.  I was dreading telling them, but fortunately hubby graciously did the job and did it well.  The kids’ initial reaction when they heard the news was summed up in E’s question, “Can we get another pet?”  I was partly relieved and surprised that they seemed to take the news so well, but chalked it up to their young age.  Little did I know, this was just the calm before the storm.

While hubby took Sparkle’s body to the vet’s, I got the kids ready for bed.  About 20 minutes later, the bigger questions started coming.  And boy, was I not ready for them.

“Can we bring our toys to heaven?”
“Will our body become a skeleton when we are buried?”
“How big is God?”
“What will we do in heaven?”
“Do kids and babies die?  Will I die?”
“What will happen to us when you guys die?”

I had the hardest time hearing C ask the last question and seeing her on the verge of tears.  What are you supposed to say to a three year old to calm her fears about losing her parents?  All I could do was scoop her up in my arms and reassure her that we are still here and she doesn’t need to worry about that.

Sigh.  If only it was that simple.  The reality of life is that it is temporary; everything living will eventually die.

There was a time when I thought I would live forever (and believed turning 20 would be the end of the world).  But now that I am nearing 40, and perhaps mid-life, I see that life is in fact very short and totally out of my control.  And having to explain these facts to my kids throws me completely off balance.

The only thing I have that keeps me grounded is hope.  Hope in a loving and forgiving God.  Hope in a place where there is no death or fear or tears or pain or itching due to eczema (which E had been wondering about).

And the best thing I know to do is to pass on this hope to my kids.  So that when the hard stuff of life hits them (and after we are no longer around), they will be able to stay anchored and hopeful.  Cause hope is the thing that keeps us going through each and every day that brings us that much closer to eternity.

In thinking about eternity, here’s a song by Steven Curtis Chapman that talks about the “Long Way Home”.

How have you (or would you) talk to your kids about death?