As I age, become ever more conscious of my own mortality, and am affected by the mortality of others, little things begin to mean a great deal to me. I notice significances more, spend more time thinking about those significances, and go deeper into their larger meaning.
It's probably a good year for us to be engaging theological issues in our worship time at UUCWI because I'm thinking more about meaning. And meaning is what theology is all about. My own mental meanderings start with "someone I care about is very ill and I feel compassion for her", move on to "what will it be like for me if and when she dies?", and wind up in "what does it mean that I will die, that we all will die, that these deaths are a natural outcome of human life, and where is the Sacred in this natural occurrence?"
Recently an email from an acquaintance reached my inbox. The sender was someone I'd met when I performed her wedding ceremony a couple of years ago, whose first message to me included the line that she wanted to wear her wedding dress before she had to go in for her next round of chemo.
This time it was a plea to be with her and her husband as they put their beloved dog to rest. Mac, who had been a member of the wedding party, was declining fast; his illness too was cancer and it had struck hard, taking him downhill almost overnight. Would I say a few words over his little grave? Of course I would.
It came at the end of a pleasant day with my sister across the water. Sitting in the ferry line, I got the call. Could I come to the house as soon as I got off the boat? The vet would be there and we would be together during these moments of goodbye, the little grave would be dug, and we would bury Mac with his toys and collar, wrapped in his favorite blanket. And I would pray.
It happened just that way, with many tears and stories of Mac's bravery and protectiveness toward his family and other animal friends. We wrapped him and carried him to the grave, where he was laid. And my words went something like this:
"Spirit of Life and Love, God in our midst, we are grateful for the unconditional love of our animal friends. They give it so unstintingly and we give our care and devotion in return. But our lives are longer than their lives and there sometimes comes a time when we must repay their love and friendship by giving them a peaceful, painfree death. We are grateful for the bright spirit of little Mac, who gave so freely to his humans of his companionship, his protection, his playfulness, his loyalty. May his spirit be always with his humans and may he rest here in peace. Amen and Blessed Be."
And we threw clods of dirt upon the small packet in the bottom of the grave and said goodbye.