BEATRICE, my beautiful companion

I have a student who told me that every time her ears are ringing, it upsets her to the point of nausea. Even so much to make her unfocused or head achy. Hmm. When my ears ring, I just get distracted. Let’s hope a crowd of people doesn’t strike up a conversation about this young lady. While my ears aren’t currently ringing, I am immediately distracted by something that is making me unfocused and head achy. Today I made the not so hard decision to put my dog to sleep.

I have three other dogs that I love very much, and I couldn’t have been more grateful to come home to them today. (Penelope is sitting on my lap as I type.) But, Beatrice, my 13-year old, blind, diabetic, toothless chihuahua…held a special place in my heart, and today I had to say goodbye to a dear companion.

What sparked this posting has to do with my inability to come up with a clever idea for a chapel talk I give to the high school next week. Usually my chapel cup spillith over with high theatrics and a song and dance routine that challenges students to be distracted. My incorporation of crazed costumes, choreographed dance and student participation is legendary. I probably get on peoples nerves with the expectation of a horse and pony show at every turn.  I guess I really don’t mind. I do it for the students, chiefly so that they aren’t falling asleep and honestly because I love to perform and be a firm witness while utilizing the few talents God gave me. It’s always a stuffy affair putting it together and I just simply haven’t had the time to coordinate any additional participation this time…so I’m stuck in my office thinking about the theme: “Thank God for Beauty.”

Easy right? Whip out a song from “Beauty and the Beast”…change a few lyrics and add a wink to the audience. But, I don’t WANT to be big and loud this time. I’m baffled. I’m also deliberately trying to distract myself away from Beatrice, who has been occupying my mind all day.

Then it hit me. Not an idea for the chapel talk…still thinking about that one…but about “Beauty.” In first Peter 3 verses 3-4: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair or the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead it should be that of your inner self. The unfading beauty of a gentle spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

Beatrice was a puppy mill doggy. We found this out on our way to PetSmart for a routine shopping venture for a simple container of fish food. They were having the weekly visit from the SPCA. The tents were out and the bandannas were freshly pressed and dangling from every pitbull, terrier and mixed breed in the lot. We walked by and took time to try and make a few tails wag, when I saw this sad-looking, pot-bellied little thing in the top cage, nuzzled in a small heap of newspapers.  She was pathetic looking…and I knew she was coming home with us.

Her belly was black and calloused, and when we took her to the vet we found out that it was a form of yeast infection caused by exposure to an unkept kennel for durations of time. Weeks of medicine and lengthy warm, medicated baths turned her belly fawn and baby soft.

She had two teeth, both infected which were pulled and her tongue poked out the side of her mouth just enough to bring a smile to your face.

She never walked, she shuffled. Her body remained skinny, but she approached her food dish like a tank and ate with passion smacking her watered-down mash with her toothless gums and licking the bowl afterward side-ways with her long tongue. My wife always said that she looked like a wasp after eating, noting her skinny legs and big, full belly.

Beatrice had many problems. She was old, for one. She was not very well taken care of. The reality of a life as a puppy mill dog showed in her weak bladder and loss of muscle tone and low calcium levels. She was tired, and slow moving. She needed a place, soft and warm to retire.

I loved this dog very much. Silly as it sounds, it was kinda like having a grand parent in the house. She was quirky, and predictable…and she let out these wonderful little squeaks when she heard my voice as I walked in the room. That sound would instantly change my mood.

After a while, we noticed a physical change in her, and she was diagnosed with diabetes and we began a routine of insulin shots twice a day. She was a champion and became quite accustomed to the matter, even though her paper-thin skin wasn’t the most receptive of the change.

Over two years this dog shuffled, smacked and squeaked…and made us quite happy. I wouldn’t have changed a moment of these last two years. Slowly, we began noticing a considerable decline in her health in the last week, and upon the urging of our vet, and knowing that she was suffering, we made the decision.

My wife brought her to the vet and held her. I was driving to school for a parent meeting and was listening to a mix playlist on shuffle, when “Waiting for the Light to Shine” from the musical BIG RIVER began to play. I lost it. What a beautiful song. How amazing that it came on right at the time my heart was heavy. And what a wonderful thought that my now blind chihuahua, perhaps is seeing light again.

I refuse to go into it with anyone about pets…and souls…and heaven.

Instead…may I ask a question? One I truly want an answer to. You see, my dog Beatrice had a beautiful spirit…one I cannot explain. She was nothing less than a pathetic-looking, scrappy dog…but inside, and in every move or squeak…I saw that light shine. Why is it we have a hard time finding that light in one another as Christians? I can only imagine it has something to do with indifference, I suppose. To the passer-by, Beatrice looked old…and ratty. But to me…that was a beautiful little dog that brought a pathethic sinner much joy, in a beautiful way, every day.

My students probably don’t want to hear about a dead dog in Chapel.  I’ll remain in search of another idea. But if I could find a way to share that beautiful inside that I know is in all of us…that is hard to find sometimes, but peeks through just enough to make us smile occasionally…then I think I can do away with the song and dance. It’s the little things that bring us closer to God quickly. Miracles happen every day, but I certainly don’t expect a giant flood and an ark in my backyard. But, then again, I didn’t expect a black-bellied chihuahua at the pet store that day either. Instead, I find great joy in life’s surprises and look forward to that light shining in the sallest of places…and then, through us all.

“WAITIN’ FOR THE LIGHT TO SHINE”

I have lived in the darkness for so long
I am waitin’ for the light to shine
Far beyond horizons I have seen
Beyond the things I’ve been
Beyond the dreams I’ve dreamed

I am waitin’ for the light to shine
I am waitin’ for the light to shine
I have lived in the darkness for so long
I’m waitin’ for the light to shine

bea-and-me

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5 Responses to “BEATRICE, my beautiful companion”

  1. Thank you, Erik, for making me smile this morning. It also reminds me of 1 Samuel 16:7, “But the L-rd said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance, or the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for G-d sees not as man sees, for man looks at at the outward appearance, but he L-rd looks at the heart.'” I think you have your chapel talk.

  2. First off, I’m so sorry for your loss. I personally think Beatrice looks very sweet, and it sounds like she had a wonderful life with you and Emily. Hang in there…

    And don’t worry too much about your Chapel Talk. It sounds to me like you have a pretty strong message. Speak (or sing, if you want) from your heart, and it will resonate.

  3. Eric, this made me cry so hard. I too just suffered a loss, and this beautiful message was just what I needed. Thank you for sharing.

  4. …and I remember, with joy, some of those boistrously-jubilant chapel services you’ve led! Not a thing wrong with that; some people expected just that from you.

    Bu-u-u-u-ut………………….sometimes we get so wrapped up in the “gotta find the right” song, Bible verse, choreography, that we’re wa-a-ay too noisy ourselves. (Eric, this is not in any way a negative comment on what you’ve produced in the past, so don’t even attempt to go there in your thoughts, OK?)

    Remember, you’re the one that plunked down the question on your blog! So, you have to be prepared for the answers that may come your way – ha! My thoughts, for whatever they are/not worth:

    I firmly believe that “the light” to which you’re referring is always there in a Christian. But, I don’t think that the sight problem always exists in that OTHER Christian; I think the sight problem is mine (OK, now you can take some ownership and say it is also yours, Eric.) I know from personal experience, that when I can’t recognize “the light” in someone else, I’ve been much too noisy myself. Now, I don’t have the ability to make all the beautifully-packaged, choreographically-correct, “verbagely”-succinct clatter that you can, but, I have my own ways to make such a racket that I oftentimes can’t even see my own little spark of faith, much less hone in on someone’s around me.

    It is at those times, and they come often, I have to say “sh-h-h” to myself and sometimes one shush doesn’t work; I have to be bold enough to say: “Rhoda, SHUT UP!” It is only then that I can begin to hear the words of Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.” In that verse, “still” literally means: without sound; without motion. That’s really difficult for some of us, right? But, it really is necessary and you truly will be able to enjoy the sight and sound that “the light” of another Christian can make, when you thought it was completely absent.

    Maybe, just maybe, a quiet chapel service led by Eric Ball will be just the right touch at this time. Maybe, just maybe, there are others that share your same need — a little less noise, a little less pulsating strobe light, a little less fancy footwork; a little more deafening and blinding QUIET to be able to hear their own heartbeat and see “the light”, both of which come from being still before God.

    It is always my prayer that God will continue to shower on you His blessings of boldness, compassion, and pure joy in His abiding Love and Grace. …and thank you for taking such great care of Beatrice. …and give Emily a hug from me.

    See you later — Rhoda

  5. you know how I feel about blogging-NEVER READ IT but I was drawn to see what you wrote about that “can’t even call it a dog” little friend of yalls. Sounds like you just wrote the perfect chapel talk to me. I am deeply sorry for your loss and sometimes it isn’t what we want but God did just most certainly provide through Beatrice!

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