Today is our beloved keeshound, Sally’s last day here on earth. She’s 14 years old and has been unable to hold any food or water down since Monday. We were told shortly after losing Joel that her kidney’s were beginning to fail. To avoid finding myself in a crisis over the weekend, I found a vet that can put her to sleep in our home today after James returns home from work. God has been gracious and given me a lot of peace about it and the kids are all in agreement. It’s still going to be really hard… especially for Mike because her last turn for the worse happened while he’s in DC. He’ll be back tonight sometime after 6 pm and she’ll be gone.
On Wednesday, I was thinking about Halloween essentially being a celebration of evil and death and how odd it was that Sally might die on Halloween. I thought about how many people don’t even realize that it’s called “All Hallow’s Eve” because it’s the eve before “All Saint’s Day,” a day to remember the “hallowed” saints who’ve gone before us. It’s as if our eyes have been veiled from glorious victory that the great cloud of witnesses now enjoys over death and instead of celebrating their lives and sacrifices for us, we have been tricked into celebrating evil and death itself. It’s a terrible trick, and comes with the threats of missing out on the treats of playing dress up and way too much fun and candy. It’s as if evil gives itself premature a victory party each year when SOON death itself will die.
What have done as a family for Halloween has evolved over the years. When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my Dad learned about the origins of Halloween and started taking me “no-tricks-just-treating” and we passed out tracts instead of threats to the neighbors we visited. So, most of my life I’ve known Halloween as more of a battle than a game.
When our kids were still babies and toddlers, the stores were just starting their crazy early jump the holiday bandwagon and I had no idea how to protect their eyes from the grotesque Halloween decorations that were invading not only the party shops but our local grocery stores. The Lord used them for good though. The Halloween before Josh turned 3, he asked Jesus in his heart because he was afraid of going to hell where all those scary creatures lived. His questions revealed that he had been putting off giving his life to Christ because he was afraid that the moment he did God would take him away from me directly to Heaven. He didn’t want to leave his mama. Josh has always been precocious that way. 🙂
Those first few years on All Hallow’s Eve, we were reluctant to open our front door and expose our small children to all those scary creatures that came trick-or-treating, so we hid in our house with the porch light turned off and enjoyed family Veggie Tale movie nights. As the kids grew older and caught on to the fun that they were missing, turning out the porch light didn’t prove to be much protection. Dressing up has always been a favorite for our kids. They had a large tub of dress up clothes and played often. I prayed for wisdom that year as our kids watched longingly out the window.
The following year our church had a harvest party. I made Josh and James biblical costumes, dressed Joel in a baby out fit with a blue puppy on it and we ventured out on Halloween for the first time. Josh now almost 6 years old dressed up as the prophet Balaam and James 3, as his talking donkey. As our kids grew the harvest parties grew more extravagant and crowded, and a little impersonal. It felt safe and fun, but I still felt like I was on the defensive instead of the offensive with Halloween.
About the time we adopted our dog, Sally, we started attending a Vineyard church in San Antonio, Texas which was a very small group/outreach oriented church. There we discovered a whole new, personal approach to Halloween. Their small groups reached out to their neighborhoods through front yard harvest parties. We lived in a great location for such a party and volunteered to host our small group’s party in our front yard. For the first time ever, we found ourselves taking something the devil meant for evil and using it for good. We all loved it. The neighbors responded first with curiosity, and then with gratefulness. We brought church and opportunities for relationships into the neighborhood. They no longer had to go out and look for it. We were each personally invested in the outreach. It was something we did together as a family. For me, it was like Halloween had been redeemed; instead of a day to tolerate or hide, it became a day to love our neighbors to Christ. We were able to take the idea with us to Florida, and enjoyed several years of front yard harvest outreaches.
In thinking about our past front yard harvest parties, I remembered that All Hallow’s Eve is Sally’s favorite holiday. Sally loves it because she loves visitors. Each trick-or-treater is greeted with an, “I am so glad you came to see me. I am such an adorable puppy, aren’t I? I love to be petted.” Then she drinks in the attention. She has always lived and loved everyone with the joy and wonder of a puppy.
I am really going to miss her. I am not sure about what happens when our pets die. I know that horses, and lions, and lambs live in Heaven. I know that we will be more than satisfied with the treasures God has laid up for us there. I know that
“He will wipe every tear from our 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.
I was telling my poor, sad Sally about how wonderful it’s going to be yesterday. I tell myself often. Then early this morning after checking on Sally, I tried to get a moment’s more sleep and had a dream/vision/flash and saw Sally seeing in color for the first time (earthly dogs are color blind). It felt like God was saying that she’ll go to sleep here, then wake up to a world of living color. I am so glad God lives outside of my box and I won’t be surprised if when we meet Joel in Heaven we find Sally by his side. 🙂
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15
Wishing you a safe and happy All Hallow’s Eve!