Saturday, September 26, 2009

Loss

John McManamy has been on a theological kick.  So I thought I'd take a turn, it being my profession anyway.

The relationship between GoD and DoG is one of those enduring theological themes.  Here is one contribution to the discussion:



This dog reminds me a bit of my own, named Mazie -- Amazing Grace.  Except there are too many stars in the lower right corner of the constellation, a leg that she lost a long time ago.  Move those stars up to form her crown chakra.  For twelve of her thirteen years, people have watched her run and said, "That's Amazing!" -- the inspiration for her name.

Mazie is a therapy dog.  Not officially, she never received the training.  Now she has renal failure and it's too late.  But everywhere she goes, she finds the person who needs her.  When I took her to visit the shelter for victims of the Iowa floods in '08, she stopped to visit with each one.  After an hour, I was depressed and weary -- the start of my latest relapse.  I thought it was time to go.  But no, she pulled on the leash and told me she hadn't talked with that man who was isolating, sitting by himself under that tree.  And she had to hang around until the Red Cross worker got off shift, to give her some of her grace, too.

People have to ponder a three-legged dog.  After a few years, I stopped making smart remarks to the same question I heard over and over.  I came to realize that through her, people consider their own experiences of loss, and the consequences of loss, and the life she leads without even noticing her loss.

How did she come to be a therapy dog?  We don't know the before story.  We only know the after, the kindness of a farmer who went out of his way for an injured stray, a no-kill shelter that is very picky and does home studies of the people who want to adopt, a vet and staff who treat her as a queen, the strangers who flock to her and, I believe, bring their own need for gentleness to the gentleness with which they approach her.  And she responds in kind.

Will she get her leg back in heaven?  I don't think so.  On earth, the only handicap it causes is that she can't pivot to the right at a full run without falling down.  I think her only wish is that in heaven she will lose the leash, so she can do what she loves to do, to run like the wind in three quarter time.

I knew somebody who was born with a foreshortened arm.  It ended at the elbow, with a stump of a hand.  She always objected when some religious person reassured her that she would be whole in heaven.  She said she was already whole.  And she was.

What does it mean for those of us with mental illness to be whole in heaven?  All of the life experience that makes us who we are includes the experience of mental illness.  Will we lose that?  Who then will we be?

All of the loss in this world -- a friend is reading a midrash of Exodus.  [In Midrash, the rabbis explore the meaning of Scripture through story-telling, expanding and deepening the levels of the text.]  One interpretation of Moses at the burning bush is that he initially refused the call to go free the Israelite slaves in Egypt, because -- what about the ones who were already dead and buried in the walls of the pyramids that they died while building?  Who would let them go?

Will God have an answer to your question?  I don't know that I want an answer.  I want it all, us all to be gathered up, none of it and none of us to be lost.

A psychiatrist tried to reassure me once about Electro-Convulsive Therapy, ECT, saying that usually the only memory loss was of the events immediately preceding the treatment.  And usually people are so unhappy before treatment that they are glad to lose those memories.

It was not a convincing argument.  I don't want to forget.  I don't want to lose any of it.  It is part of me, even the pain.  I guess I want for it to mean something.  I want to be able to ask God to answer for it -- like the Holocaust survivor who insisted that he be buried in his Auschwitz uniform instead of the traditional Jewish winding sheet.  He wanted to stand before the throne of judgment wearing the evidence that would itself say, who is judging whom?

Maybe what I really want, for Mazie, for those lost in the walls of the pyramids, and in the ashes, and for those who are in such pain that they want to lose their minds, for all of us, is to be found.

2 comments:

  1. I think that is the crux of it: "I guess I want for it to mean something." By what your described of her actions, especially during the Iowa flood, Mazie seems to be a Victor Frankl sort of dog: "What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general, but rather the specific meaning of…life at a given moment…..We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by doing a deed; (2) by experiencing a value; and (3) by suffering." Would we try to be more dog-like, as well as God-like.

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  2. I believe we are to take our own pain, and use it to help someone else. = as Mazie does.

    When we share someones pain, and are able to say, 'I've been in similar circumstances', our pain has meaning.

    M

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