There isn’t one morning I wake that I don’t need a fresh batch of mercy. I pull back the curtain to look outside and there it is without fail. Sometimes the sun shines bright. Other times, the sky is overcast and drizzly. The thing that matters most is that this new day has arrived and with each new day, fresh mercies.
This time of not rushing when I wake is the thing I love most about working nights. This is the time I sit and have coffee with God. I never know what He’ll lead me to meditate on in those moments. I just take His hand, open my heart and do my best to listen. Sometimes I simply play songs for Him on my harmonica. Today I felt compelled to read.
The day before Thanksgiving last year, I looked out my kitchen window and saw my grandkids playing in a mountain of leaves.
This year, I looked out my kitchen window and saw my grandson’s dog having a seizure.
T.J.’s love for dogs is larger than life. Their love for T.J. is even larger than that. So big is their love that it isn’t a good idea for postal carriers to come near the child. So big is their love that T.J.’s own mother must exercise caution when she disciplines him. One dog in particular has started growling his disapproval over this very thing.
T.J. named his own dog Woody. I don’t know what went wrong with Woody. I only know that he was energetic and ornery on Tuesday. By Wednesday, he was not.
While waiting for our time slot with the vet, Woody’s condition worsened. I felt physically ill. Heartsick. These are the things in life you don’t plan for. Can’t plan for. Those times in life when you are stripped down to circumstances beyond your control and everything else becomes trivial. Like finishing the two casseroles that were already in the works. Or cleaning the house the way you thought you would.
Woody went to Heaven just after 5 p.m.
I tried to be productive in some way but the heaviness of my heart depleted my brain cells. Instead, I left the house early and went to work my final night shift before Thanksgiving day. It was there that I remembered what I had read this morning in that treasured, unhurried time: In everything, give thanks.
It felt impossible under the weight of the unexpected. Then I realized we aren’t required to give thanks for circumstances that suck so badly. But in those sucky circumstances—those times when the reasons aren’t so obvious, we should offer thanks.
Those small mercies, so often unnoticed.
I closed my eyes and remembered Woody surrounded by grown kids of all ages—family, friends, neighbors— speaking softly to him, petting him, laying down in the grass with him, easing him from this place into the next with all the love they had to offer.
I thought of my grandkids visiting relatives in Texas this week…not in the mountain of leaves in my backyard…relieved that they didn’t have to watch their beloved Woody suffer.
I thought of other pets lost—the way my kids prefer to journey together down this road of inevitable fate—the way they fall into a familiar choreography of loss in which the steps are never forgotten.
I thought about the love of my life…the way he has always taken care of our kids, other people’s kids—and has kept me in spite of all the kids I’ve brought home and the dogs they’ve brought home. The way he quietly waits in those last moments…those sacred moments before he puts shovel to earth and carries those dogs so tenderly to their final resting place.
After a peaceful night at work, I signed out at ll:15 p.m. instead of 4:45 a.m. which gave me plenty of time to finish all that had been left undone.
Breezy and I worked together in the kitchen as we always do the night before Thanksgiving. She turned on Christmas music…the first of the season, just as she always does. As Louis Armstrong serenaded softly in the background, the house began to smell like a holiday and we found comfort in ritual.
Three hours, one casserole, and four pies later, the last pan washed- dried- put away, I stepped outside with garbage in hand, being careful not to look toward the lonely dog run. Instead, I looked toward Heaven and wondered if Woody was as energetic and ornery on this Thursday morning as he was on Tuesday. And even though my day was no longer new in this backward schedule of mine, there was such abundant mercy remaining that I couldn’t imagine it any other way.