Eternity does not start with death. We are in eternity now.
- Norman Vincent Peale
A friend called to share a heart-stopping experience she had three weeks ago. Grace is 94 years young, feisty, loving and honest. Her husband died many years ago under hospice care; my friend Jackie and I were his nurses.
Grace was always grateful for the care we gave him, but to be honest, we enjoyed ourselves immensely when we visited them. To be with them was like being part of The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. They were hilarious.
Life has been challenging for Grace since her husband died, followed by her son—who was much too young to die—and with the additional heartache of her only daughter not being fully well. But she could still find humor, laughter and joy in many things and continued to play bridge and have lunch with friends.
Her greatest blessing for the past 14 years has been her beloved dog, Gretchen. They were constant companions, from getting up in the morning until slipping back into bed at the end of the day. They did everything together all day long, including falling all over each other many more times than either of them would admit.
But then, three weeks ago, Grace had to make a decision. Gretchen wasn’t eating anymore and she no longer had the energy to bark. She was sluggish, tired all the time, could no longer jump into Grace’s lap and Grace could not bend over to pick her up and comfort her. They visited her very kind veterinarian; after blood work and X-rays, he delivered the news that Gretchen had cancer in her lungs, brain and many other parts of her body. It was devastating, and the decision was made to put her to sleep. Grace asked to be alone with Gretchen for a while and for her doctor to place her in her lap for the last time.
The vet closed the door and they were alone. Grace looked down into Gretchen’s eyes, and Gretchen looked back at Grace. What passed wordlessly between them was a deeply moving and spiritual experience. Grace was looking into the eyes of love—pure and simple love. Grace said it was so beautiful, love expressed without words yet felt so deeply. Best friends acknowledging in an instant all that had gone on between them, all they meant to each other, their gratitude for the love and loyalty they shared for 14 years.
When scripture tells us that God abides where love is, this is what is meant. God enables us to experience him in even the littlest of his creatures, and when we do, we know it.
The very loving doctor and his staff allowed Grace to hold Gretchen when she was given her last shot. Gretchen went off into the gentlest sleep knowing she was loved well her whole life and understanding too that she had fulfilled her destiny to love Grace well. She died in the arms of her very best friend. God is so good all the time; he had allowed Grace to see him in Gretchen’s eyes. It was the best it could possibly be!