I Didn’t Know THAT Was Going To Happen

I was a pretty proficient funeral director as a child.  The small mammals of our house were always laid to rest with soft tissues lining their checkbook box caskets.  I wept over them, sang my dirges, and laid flowers over their backyard graves.  I’d visit their plots, I’d agonize over them being in the cold, dark earth, all alone.

All of my love had nowhere to go, no furry heart to land on.  There was Murphy the Gerbil, Lougee the Mouse, and Blueberry the Hamster, plus a neighborhood bird with a broken wing.  If love could cure, they’d have lived forever.

I’ve read a new book, “Piggy In Heaven” by Melinda Johnson which gently and joyfully tells of a beloved guinea pig’s first day in Heaven.  He rolls in the grass, munches, and hops about, sans cage, and his new pig friends gradually reveal where he is and why.  When they’ve ever so tenderly explained to him that he died he responds, “I didn’t know that was going to happen!”  Isn’t that just the bewilderment that children experience when their pet dies?  How I wish I’d had this book as a grieving child!  It would have revealed to me that God too loves his creatures; that I was not alone in my love, nor my grief; that the end of earthly life means a beginning of eternal life.

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What is perhaps most beautiful to me personally is the reminder that love is never wasted.  We do not need to hold back our fullest and deepest love in order that we might be less vulnerable to eventual losses.  We can live full-heartedly, and hope in God’s wonderful mercy that the ones we love might just be waiting for us on the other side.

So, if the little ones in your life are mourning the loss of a pet, consider this beautiful, hope-filled book, and if you’re crafty I’ve included a pattern I made with the help of my dear friend Kristina Wenger (Plush-Maker Extraordinaire!) for making a stuffed Piggy to go with it!

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Materials needed:

  1. minky fabric, 1/4 yard in the color you like (you can make several piggies with this!)
  2. a small bit of felt, I chose light brown
  3. pink embroidery thread or a stuffed animal nose or button
  4. black beads or stuffed animal eyes on posts
  5. fiberfill
  6. needle and heavyweight thread
  7. Piggy Pattern printed (say that five times fast!)

 

To make, trace out the pattern pieces on minky fabric, or any other furry material that delights you, being aware that the fluffier it is, the harder it will be make the eyes and nose findable!  Make sure you flip the body pattern piece when you cut the second one so that you have the fur right side out on both sides.

I recommend cutting out the furry parts outside as you will indeed be covered in foof, and the pieces can be shook out to disperse the fluff out of doors rather than on your floors.  Also, you will now look like you’ve taken up another job at a pet grooming shop.IMG_8157

Cut out the ears from felt and pinch together and hand stitch to make a curved shape.

Clip open the ear slot and either machine or hand stitch the ear in place.  If using stuffed animal eyes, insert them now too.  If using beads as eyes you’ll attach them later.

Using a 1/4″ seam allowance, sew one side to the tummy panel (right sides facing) beginning and ending at the dots A and B on the pattern.  Sew the opposite side to the tummy panel as well.  Sew shut the back, leaving a 1.5″ gap for turning it right side out.  Double check all seams to make sure there are no holes.

It may be tricky to work the presser foot around the eye posts, so hand sewing that area may be necessary

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Turn right  side out and if using a post nose, snip a tiny hole at the front and insert and secure from inside the piggy.

IMG_8177Stuff with desired fiber fill, hand stitch the hole shut.  For beaded eyes use heavy thread, doubled, and a long needle.  Position the needle and pull the thread through the face to the other side making sure the eyes will be even.  Add a bead and plunge back through, adding the other bead, and go back and forth until the eyes are quite secure.  Pull the thread slightly so that the eyes sink inward, forming the face shape  guinea pig style.  Double knot and snip threads close to the surface.  The same looping-pull is done if you used eye posts to give it a nice shape.  If you didn’t add a nose yet, use embroidery thread to add a pink triangle nose.

 

Have the eyes disappeared on you?  Time for fur-scaping!  Using sharp, small scissors trim away the surrounding fluff so that the eyes stand a chance of peering out at the world.

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You are done!  Snuggle at will.

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On a Sabbath Made Strange

The song played as we drove.  We laced our fingers together, which was way too warm and just right.  Tears rolled freely down my face as the passing landscape smeared by.

We’d been invited to lunch with dear friends; we had looked forward to sharing of their warm hospitality and always-wonderful food, but we had to cancel.  The raging waves of grief were breaking hard on our first Sunday as “homeless” Christians.  We needed to drive, so we drove.

We let the song break right over us, let it pull the grief open for us, and we sang along, downright belting it out.  Not sure what the kids thought.

We pulled into the Baltimore Museum of Art; it was free and I needed beauty.  Maybe some won’t understand that.  Beauty has a way of pulling my soul up from my feet and feeding it.  It speaks to that soul laid-low in the language of color and line and strokes of cadmium red.

Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, Matisse, Raphael, Klimt; they all showed up and did my soul a service.  1,700 year-old Antiochian mosaics helped too.  And “The Thinker”, stooped over in thought; at least I’m not the only one stumped.

I might be grieving a bit hard.  But that is because I love hard.  Mildness is not my modus operandi.  If you have once worked your way into my heart, it is highly probable that you shall always have a residence there.

The day winds down to a wash of grays growing darker.  But I see green coming up, I see green.

On Necrotizing Fasciitis And Such

We almost lost Kara.

She’d just given birth to a lovely baby girl.  A pain in her leg nagged on.  Suddenly emails and texts and phone calls were rapid fire; prayer chains linked together, and a whole family on their knees pleading for God to spare her life.

We probably all googled “necrotizing fasciitis”, because that was the enemy we were staring down in our prayers, that was the beast wreaking havoc on beloved Kara, flesh-eating bacteria trying to swallow her whole.  The prayers were first, “God please let them not have to take too much of her leg muscle”….then…”Oh, God, save her leg”….then…”Oh, God, save Kara”.

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Baby came home, mama in an induced coma while surgeons cut away the death claiming her leg, trying to claim all of her.  Her husband, Mike, lived in two worlds, at his wife’s bedside and home with his two boys and new baby girl.  Meals came in.  In-laws moved in to care for the little ones.  A cousin and I came down for a few days to help.  It was a hard thing to see, fierce sorrow and fiercer love staring out of Mike’s eyes.

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Talking to mama over Skype.

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What do you say, when a mama who loves long walks in the countryside loses her leg?

What do you say when she asks for the baby to be lifted nearer the webcam so she can see her better and you can feel the ache in her arms to hold her daughter?

What do you say when life suddenly looks so drastically different and you can’t make it all better?

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I’ve failed at the words.  I’ve tried to fix unfixable things.  I’m learning though.  We all need to, being always on the cusp of unexpected sorrows in our own lives and the lives of those we love.  We need to do better.

Here’s a few helps:

1)  Watch this and get this into your heart.  It will equip you to extend true and blessed empathy.

2)  Apply what you learned in #1.

3)  Pray.  Let the hurting know you’re praying, that even if their own words are stuck in their throats, raw and raspy, that other voices are interceding.

4)  Resist claiming to know what God is up to, why He allowed the hard thing to happen, or offering any conjectures about good things to come from it.  Give their pain room to be what it is.

5)  Keep close to God, attentive to His promptings.  He may have specific tasks for you to do to bless the hurting ones.

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“Those who have known pain profoundly are the ones most wary

of uttering cliches about suffering.  Experience with the mystery takes

one beyond the realm of ideas and produces finally a muteness

or at least a reticence to express in words the solace that can only

be expressed by an attitude of union with the sufferer.”

-John Howard Griffin