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by David Pettit
On these summer Sundays, I invite you to think about lives and what they have meant. To think not with a pietistic paintbrush, but to read carefully, in between the lines, and to discern how God’s gracious purposes might be present in the midst of life’s mixed realities, remembering that our attempt to speak for others’ stories is in some way an attempt to understand our own.
Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” And the slave said, “Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” Then the master said to the slave, “Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.” Luke 14:21-23
Amy lived in Denver for a long time. However, she still had Louisiana in her. She loved the New Orleans Saints. She scooted out of church quickly on Sunday, saying softly with that smile, “Gotta go. The Saints are on.” Amy loved golf, and those she golfed with. She loved sweets, and her siblings and nieces and nephews. She loved the mothering figures in her life, chief among whom was her mom, Edna, and her friend, Dody. She loved God, and came to rely on God as that power greater than herself that could heal and restore her to sanity. Amidst the things of which Amy loved kept her sane were Airedale Terriers.
Amy loved dogs in general. But she had some special bond with this particular breed of dog. But more so, her heart was for those that had had a hard time of things. She worked closely with the Airedale Terrier Rescue Association. She took in troubled dogs, giving them the care and love they needed but who were shy and fearful to receive. She loved her dogs: the dogs long passed, the dogs which lived a long time with her, and the dogs she had only a short time. She walked them every day, through the cemetery near her home. She told me that it probably was a little creepy, but she actually found it peaceful; walking among those who had lived but who were now at peace.
It was her ministry. It was an arena where authority and confidence displaced her quietness and sheepishness. She was the elder there. If you wanted to take in a rescue dog, Amy got the first sniff. Amy had to give the ok.
Amy’s love and compassion for these dogs sprang from her own journey. Amy had seasons when she had a tough time of things. And she loved her family, her mom especially, in part because they were there for her in those darker moments. She did as much as she could for her mom, grateful for how she had been there for her. She took her place in the church, not as one with a self-righteous air, but as one of those needful ones who God invited to that grand banquet.
Amy worked at health; worked hard at it. She took her own sobriety seriously, sought various ways of managing anxiety and the emotional ups and downs of life. She was faithful in church. She walked her dog every day. She rarely indulged in those sweets she loved. She played golf as often as she could.
She had experienced the heaviness of life, wore its seriousness; a seriousness that co-existed along with her smile, a smile that burst forth in the presence of people like Dody, when talking about her dogs, or when scooting out the door to catch her Saints. Amy was doing well. She even had done some traveling in recent weeks: attended her fortieth high school reunion, visited her siblings and nieces and nephews, traveled to the west coast. She had plans for more. She was enjoying herself, even indulging just a bit. She caught my attention on Sunday, actually; she had a slightly different demeanor about her; relaxed, her hair fell differently.
I was quite dumbstruck and taken back when I received the call Monday evening, as I know we all were. That was not the turn anybody expected for Amy. She is gone from us, so quickly and without advanced notice. We are still getting our balance from this blow, trying to find the words, and come to terms.
Amy is now gathered to those who have lived but who now are at peace. I suspect, if possible, she is sad and a little guilty for not being here to care for her mom anymore. But whatever heaven looks like, whether it is streets of gold or finely manicured fairways, I imagine that Amy is walking them daily, relieved to be done with the struggles and challenges of this life, given more fully to that smile, and to God, her higher power.
We grieve her loss. But we give thanks for her life, for her hard-earned health. We give thanks that she now rests with all those who have gone before, who have been gathered to the great banquet of God, the God who welcomes all the needy, all who have had a hard time of things at one point or another.
David Pettit is a minister of the Reformed Church in America currently serving Calvary Presbyterian Church in Denver, Colorado and pursuing doctoral studies in Hebrew Bible at the University of Denver.