A few weeks ago, while in Rochester throughout August, my good friends Kathe and Larry Finucane, and their young son Connor, were kind enough to throw for me a "welcome home" (for the summer) party.
Naturally, I was very touched and honored by such a gathering. What made it even more meaningful is that Kathe and Larry are two of the busiest people I know, not just because they are parents of a very active young son. But also, too, because their own lives are so full. And yet they took time out of their busy lives to have this gathering.
In any case, the party was great. They have a beautiful home nestled in one of the most elegant sections of Irondequoit. Their street is lined with trees and lamp posts...every home has a porch...and every neighbor says hello. It's like the most sophisticated and yet down-to-earth "Mayberry" atmosphere ever.
But Kathe, Larry and Connor are blessed in so many ways - and I, of course, am blessed to have them as my friends. And I've always known this, and certainly something like having a party thrown for me is clear evidence of such a honorale friendship. But it wasn't until I took just a small break from the party (which was taking place outside on their beautiful back patio) to get a ginger ale from the Finucane's fridge inside the house - did I truly realize how blessed I was to know them.
As I walked from the outdoor patio, through the glass doors that lead to their kitchen, I turned to my left - and there was Muffin - their sweet tiny dog.
Muffin had been in their family for more than a decade. In recent years, his health had been failing. And when I saw him this summer day, he had now been afflicted with arthritis, and he was blind in one eye. Muffin also had many other physical ills.
Still, his little heart was full of vigar. And when I reached down to play with him, his spirit jumped, even if his tiny sweet, weak body could not.
I knew I had to spend some time with Muffin. I was compelled to spend some time withh Muffin.
So, I put down my ginger ale - and as the party bustled along outside with Kathe's extended family - who have now also become my good friends - I cuddled and talked and played and prayed with Muffin.
I laughed - and he "laughed." I chatted in that "doggie talk" that people use - and he responded.
And we continued this playful communication for a "good" fifteen minutes. I then told Muffin I had to get back to the party. He nearly nodded like he understood - and I went back through the kitchen doors and out onto the patio - and rejoined my human friends...leaving a smiling, happy Muffin inside to rest up from our visit.
These moments are fresh in mind - as Kathe has just relayed to me that Muffin has passed on. He was in so much pain, that it was recommended that he be "put to sleep." It was clearly a difficult decision for Kathe, Larry and especially young Connor, but it was the best decision. And as Kathe said to me, they made the decision "as a family."
Certainly, anyone who knows Kathe, understands that she has had her fill of loss in her life. And she deals with frequent loss with her position as a Grief Counselor for Holy Seplecure Cemetary.
And yet, loss is loss - and losing little Muffin is not any less or more a loss than losing a human loved one.
And yet, too, gain is also gain. And just as we gain so much from each other whenever we offer or share a joyful human word...or a sweet caress...or a kind or generous gesture...we also gain so much when we share such sweet moments with beloved pets. Just as I gained so much in those few short moments with Muffin...moments that I will get to relive again and again in Heaven...when I leave this world. Moments that Muffin is right now living again and again in Heaven.
Little Muffin feels no pain...walks upright and straight...and now feels forever those "cuddles" that we shared.
Back on Earth, my short happy memory of Muffin is added to my reminders and remainders of love...while Kathe, Larry and Connor have so many more happy Muffin memories, which they also get to keep here (and "there") forever.
Of course "dog" spelled backwards is "God."
And of course "Muffin" spelled any which way is "Love."
God used Muffin to bring so much love to Kathe, Larry and Conner...a giant bin of Love that will be theirs for all time.
And in the process, somehow God instructed Muffin, by way of Kathe, Larry and Connor, to share a little piece of their Heaven with me.
And I am all the more blessed because of it.
Bless you back forever, Kathe, Larry, Connor - and Muffin.