NOTE: This blog was written by the talented and inspired Roberta Dougherty. We are so thankful for her contribution to this blog and pray it is a tremendous blessing to you all.

My husband pushes me out the door to walk with him, but I cannot see though my tears without Stella, my other dog, who has been left behind.  And I need her. My walk and my thoughts are dismal, and I cannot explain my grief.  It’s just a dog.  A dog, Stella, left behind in the house, and another dog, Asher, who just died.  But as I carry my grief along, my experiences this past year are teaching me that it is not about just a dog.  It’s about the privilege of loving and the sadness of saying goodbye.  It’s about how God designed our hearts to be full and to run over with grief when we lose someone we love. I believe it is how He first loved us that allows us to love so deeply.

In the past year I have lost my Dad.  He was my father and a man who loved me for who I was.

He was not perfect; he was a just a man. But he was my first example of faith, fidelity and of humility: I saw him every morning and every night on his knees praying.  I knew how he loved my Mom and his children. I saw how emotional he was when any of his kids got college degrees, how he outwardly cried when I received my master’s degree, knowing he wanted his children to do better than he did. My Dad made it through WWII on many prayers, honored his country and would have given his life for it.  He boarded buses for Washington and marched in Prolife marches and volunteered on an armed services base until he was in his 90’s. I saw him, at almost 102 years old, struggling in the process of death because he didn’t want to leave us.  But in the end, he knew what was before him and went with God.  I still feel his loss every day.  But I also am reminded of his struggle to live in the face of death.  He knew this life, full of bounty and losses, was a gift from God and he always respected that gift.  Through my tears, I must too.

I named Asher, my Coton du Tulear, after the Tribe of Asher.  His name means happy, blessed and prosperous!  And how he was!  Cotons are known to be happy dogs: happy to run and play, happy to sit by your side.  They are known as true companions. Asher’s love for me was boundless and intuitive, and he gave me instinctive comfort every day of his life.  My husband travels every week, but I was not alone.  Asher was there.  Those from the Tribe of Asher are said to have feet of iron and bronze.  Steadfast and strong. In the end, when he could no longer follow me wherever I went, his eyes followed me.  He loved me.  I didn’t realize how much he gave to me until he was gone.  I thank God for that special kind of love.  I think God designed these brief lives of our beloved pets to teach us about life and love and loss and how He is with us.  He sent His Spirit to be our True Companion through all of life. He is our Beloved and we are His.

Our youngest of our five children graduated right after Asher’s death, so along with the grief of death was for me, the grief you don’t always expect: the grief of life pushing forward.  Dov’s graduation felt like all 5 children had graduated at once!  I am 63 years old and I have been a mother since I was 25 years young.  It feels like a lifetime.  It is a life full. I miss being there for my children whenever they need me.  I miss being needed.  I miss their arms around me.  I miss how they smell. I miss their giggles, their delights and their fights. I miss all those little things that mean they are your children. 

But I am God’s child and I know He is still there for me.  He gives me His comfort now and He gives me gifts throughout this life and those that will extend beyond this life.  My mother, at 93 is still with me and I am her beloved child. I know when she passes, I will probably not be able to breathe for a while.  I will miss how much she loves me.  I will miss her thoughts, her opinions, her company, her wit.  I will miss hearing, firsthand, all the stories of her life in Nederland and her life with my Dad.  I will always cherish the love story of their 72 years together.  But that is all a gift already. 

I am learning that grief does not seem to be linear or have an expected end.  Grief and joy can be together, and one does not replace the other.  You can have the joy of your memories along with the ache of your heart which may physically feel like it may break from the weight of those memories you bear. And so, I mourn the losses I feel, and I thank God for the gift of feeling so much.