Yesterday was one of those headache-from-crying, puffy-eyes when we wake kind of days as we had to say goodbye to our beloved boxer, Laila. She was the sweetest four-legged member of our family, but a recent health set-back brought her to the point that she was not eating and was struggling to breathe, her lungs and chest filled with fluid. In spite of obviously feeling awful, she persisted in gentleness and sweetness while showing us she needed some extra TLC.
Before we knew for sure, I attempted to prepare the kids for the possibliity of what we might learn at the vet, and their responses matched their personalities. My tender-hearted girl immediately teared up at the thought of Laila not being okay. She hugged and petted her, offering words of comfort and seeking to be comforted too. My sweet little man accepted the information matter-of-factly and took an optimistic approach, restating my reminders that “we don’t know for sure” and “maybe she can be treated with medicine”. He is a lover and a fighter, and I could see the two strengths at battle within him. I emphasized to each of them the importance of us saying a proper goodbye “just in case” and we discussed our desire to take care of her and ensure she isn’t suffering. All of the kids took pictures with her and said what each of us hoped were unnecessary goodbyes. Sadly, the clear-answers we prayed for were very clear, but not as we hoped.
A short time later, as our grieving family processed the news of Laila’s passing, my little man again stood strong as a fighter. I reminded him that it’s okay to cry – even when you’re a man, and I couldn’t help but think of his big brother at that age – determined to keep dry eyes at all costs. A warm hug was all it took to break through his tough exterior, and he soon melted into my arms, allowing his sadness to temporarily replace his sweet optimism.
With an aching heart and tear-stained pillow, I drifted to sleep later that night only to awake to this seven-year-old at my bedside a couple of hours later. I could not fully understand him, but I could tell he was crying and I heard him speak Laila’s name. I pulled him into my arms and held him until he fell back asleep. A time or two, he stirred, and I asked if he wanted to go back to bed. “I wanna stay here,” he answered as he drifted back to sleep. Eventually, I transferred him from my arms into a little nest between his Daddy and I. I can’t say that the sleep I had at that point was restful. I was wedged on my side on a section of our queen-sized bed that seemed to be about half the width of my body. Still, in God’s goodness, He allowed me to see more clearly. This little strip of mattress I’m resigned to could be called uncomfortable or inconvenient. I could even call it backache, but I choose to call it HONOR. Honor – because I’m sharing my space to help my precious son through his grief, to teach him that it’s okay to cry and that we are a safe place for him to come when he’s sad or scared.What a privilege to fill this role – to be his momma, his safe-place even if it costs me some sleep.
I prayed for the Lord to strengthen our hurting hearts and I prayed for rest. I probably asked that little man ten times or more to stop scratching, or to stop wiggling, and whenever I could, I offered for him to return to his own bed if he would like. Time after time, he answered “I wanna stay here,” and I knew it was a gift. So with his sweaty little arm flung across my neck, I held his hand and snuggled back into my tiny piece of mattress-realestate called HONOR and drifted back to sleep, thanking the Lord, and asking Him to heal my little man’s heart.