Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Where, O Death, Is Your Sting?

Dixie (2006 - 2014)
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:54-55

Death is part of life, but it’s never easy to accept, whether it’s a friend, relative, or pet. This week, our beautiful Australian Shepherd, Dixie, passed away. As the verse above indicates, death doesn’t carry an eternal sting for Christians. But losing a loved one does sting our hearts during our earthly existence.

Dixie’s passing has left a huge hole in our lives. We’ll notice her absence even more in the spring when the weather turns warm, and she’s not here to go on bike rides or chase tennis balls or squeak toys (her absolute favorite). When we sit on the deck, she won’t be there to nuzzle under our arm to lay her head in our lap. Only memories and empty places remain.

God has comforted our family during this difficult time, and we have no doubt He’ll see us through what lies ahead. We take comfort in this promise of eternity from God’s Word:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4 

Three months ago, three separate veterinary clinics assessed and diagnosed Dixie with hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive blood vessel cancer, with tumors originating in her spleen and metastasized to her heart. The tumor on her heart had bled, creating pressure around the heart and shortness of breath. We were told she could go at any time, possibly a day or two, a week at the most. One vet gave an optimistic decree that there is no rhyme or reason to life, and Dixie might surprise us and survive a month.

Hmmm. No rhyme or reason? I pondered this for a while. He was right in the sense that no one knows what the future holds. We don’t get to say who’s healed, who dies, who beats the odds, or who doesn’t live even the projected length.

Ironically, we’re comforted by seasons of good health and conversely, fear that ill health means a sooner demise. Reality is—we’re all terminal, and this could be the last day on earth for any of us.

When we hear of someone’s “early” death, we repeat the same words: Life is short. Any of us could go tomorrow…Then we go about our business, living as if we have forever.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

Some of us worry what tomorrow might hold, often more so for loved ones than ourselves. I’ll admit I’m guilty of this at times, especially where my kids are concerned. I’m a worry-wart by nature. But my faith tells me God is in control. He’s sovereign. Nothing catches Him by surprise. 

Dixie’s sudden illness and prognosis forced us to live in the moment. Just today. Not thinking about tomorrow and turning loose of the inevitable. 

I’m reminded of a line from the book “Same Kind of Different As Me,” that said something like: “We’re just thankful we wake up each day.” That became our mantra. We woke up each day thankful Dixie was still with us, even thriving. We ended the day with thanksgiving and a hopeful expectation for another blessed day tomorrow. Then we praised God when it happened!

The vets warned us Dixie would progressively deteriorate until her death. Remarkably, she rebounded. She went from being lethargic and short of breath to walking around again, trotting, yes, even running. She pounced on her squeak toy and begged to be thrown a ball to chase or go with us on a bike ride. And we struggled with giving her what she wanted—to live in the moment—and the knowledge that doing so could bring a sooner demise.

While there may be no apparent rhyme or reason to life events, God uses every trial in our life to teach us something—if we allow Him. We grow spiritually and emotionally, better able to bless those around us and to prepare us for our eventual earthly end.

Dixie’s illness has strengthened our faith by stretching the boundaries of our minds and hearts beyond what we imagined three months ago. She forced us into a single-day concept, a single reliance on God’s timing, and a turning loose of our own timetables. And when the end came, it was swift and merciful, as our prayer had been.

Today, I found myself humming this old song, as I often do:

I don't know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don't borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to grey.
I don't worry o'er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I'll walk beside Him,
For He knows what lies ahead.
Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.
(by Ira Stanphill)

Saying good-bye to a faithful family pet is never easy. We appreciate everyone who has lifted us up in prayer during this difficult time in our family. We love you all!

If you’re going through a rough time with illness or maybe a family crisis, please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential prayer requests. I’d love to pray for you. There’s never a problem too big or too small that God doesn’t care about. If it matters to you, it matters to Him.

Would you take a moment to pray for others who leave comments or are on the prayer list at the top of the blog? Thanks!

Be sure to join me next week as I share a post entitled “All Dogs Go To Heaven?” I’m going to tackle the subject of pets in heaven. I look forward to everyone’s feedback on that subject. 

God bless,

©Laura Hodges Poole 


  1. laura i sent you an message on fb when i first started reading about dear dixie's passing not knowing if i would get your blog to load. i just again want you to know i am here and praying for you all. i am so sorry. the passing of a pet is something many can not understand unless they have experienced it and unfortunately we have. please give josh a hug for me - i guess because he is younger than we are so i hurt for him the most. i am still crying after reading the blog and i wish i could think of something to say to help but i know the only thing that will help is prayer and time. again know i am here if you need to talk.

    1. Thanks so much for the prayers, Betty. You're right--prayer and time will help, as well as support from good friends like you. I really appreciate it. God bless you.

  2. Laura - I'm sorry for your loss. Out pets are a part of our families and it's sad when we lose one. Lifting you up in prayer during this time.

    1. Thanks for the prayers, Joan. I really appreciate your taking the time to comment. God bless you.

  3. Laura, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I love dogs and have had to let them pass on as well. I'm looking forward to your all dogs go to heaven post because I believe they do.
    My dog Kaitlyn was injured a couple years ago and we don't know what happened. She was missing for three days I prayed for God to just let me find her, even if she was dead, so I wouldn't have to worry. The morning of the third day she showed up very early with injuries that were just unbelievable. I took her to the vet but he said there was no way she would survive. I held when he put her to sleep and it was one of the most painful things I've ever done.
    Time and time again God has used that experience to speak to my heart. And I haven't always enjoyed what he said, but I've learned from it and the wound has kept me focused.
    I will pray for your family and for God to bring peace to your hearts during this sad time.

  4. You brought tears to my eyes.

    You reminded me of working in the ER. I learned there that there is no rhyme or reason to death, only God's sovereignty and grace.

    I was also reminded of how thankful I was each day that I had my dad. The weeks leading to his death I knew that any moment could be his last. I would wake each day and thank God my dad was still with us. But as the days grew close to his heavenly departure, God gave peace to me and my family and we were able to say "goodbye", knowing it wasn't really a goodbye, but a "see you later".

  5. Dear Laura, I'm finding encouragement in your words. Thank you for writing this. Today, me and my family woke and had to say goodbye to a faithful friend, his name was Ozzie. A 6 year old spoiled German Sheppard who stole our hearts. Learning to worship and trust God in the middle of this pain. Waiting for the day when all of this will make some sense.
    Geovanna Caviedes