Goodbye to an Old Friend, by Greg Mattson

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“For we don’t not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need”

                                                                                                     Hebrews 4:15-16

April 15th 2019 for many is Tax Day but this year it marked a very sad day for our family.  We had to say good by to a faithful, trustworthy friend who always demonstrated unconditional love.  He was a huge part of our family, making long road trips without a complaint despite being relegated to the back of the vehicle in cramped quarters.  He watched over our house when we weren’t home and was always supremely happy to see us even if we were only gone for twenty minutes.  He was with us and an intimate part of our family for 9 years, being there for us in good times and bad.  The thought of his loss still causes me sadness as I write about our dog “Chops”.

I know to many of you that aren’t pet lovers that this kind of heartache may not make much sense but for me the loss of a pet is heartbreaking.  Chops was in good health until he developed rapid growing cancer by his eye.  I was hoping it would be just an infection that would get better with antibiotics but after the biopsy report came back as an aggressive, largely untreatable cancer, the writing was on the wall.  He suffered a seizure and was miserable trying to deal with the irritation of the tumor; lymph node swellings showed that the cancer had spread.  His appetite remained good but it became increasingly obvious it wasn’t fair to him to allow this to suffer further given he was almost 11 years old.  Cory made an appointment with the vet to “put him down”.  Knowing his time was coming to an end made it just that much harder. He was given his last meal and loaded into the car for his last car ride (one of his favorite pastimes) to be brought to the vet.  He was surrounded by his loved ones and his favorite blanket as he took his last breath.  In a matter of seconds his life was over and our faithful loved companion was gone.  We now are only left with memories and some remaining fur in the seat of our car.

I will admit that everyone was present except Jayden my grandson and myself.  As a teenager, I was present when we put one of our dogs down, and I have never been able to do it again.  I admit it’s strange that, as a physician, I have been around death frequently but for some reason the loss of a pet hits me really hard.  The pain is so deep it almost feels like it’s coming from my bone marrow. 

It was at this time that I was comforted by the message in Hebrews stating that Jesus, our High Priest, is able to sympathize with our weaknesses and there for us in our time of need.  He is not a God that is aloof and distant.  He knows and understands the heartache and grants mercy and grace in the time of need.  He better than anyone knows the heartache of separation through death from a loved one by going to the cross.  It was the separation from the Father which caused him to ask if there was any other way, but he submitted to the Father’s will by going to the cross for you and I.  The perfect relationship between the Father and the Son was temporarily fractured until the resurrection.  Death no longer carries an eternal sting.  It has been conquered for those placing their trust in Christ.  Now that is good news!

We are told that Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus which again demonstrates that our High Priest understands the heart ache of the loss of loved ones.  I still expect Chops to be waiting for us as we come through the door.  His bed is still in our bedroom as I write this and acts as a reminder of the great companion he was.  I’ve heard it said about dogs “May I become the kind of person that my dog thinks I already am” but I think the better statement would be that it is only in Jesus our High Priest that I can become the man I was created to be.   With the passing of the days, it is becoming easier to deal with the loss and I’m personally grateful that God created a boxer named “Chops” who was the most amazing dog we’ve ever owned or had the pleasure of knowing.  He is missed but God is great even in times of loss.

                                                                                                                              Blessings, Greg.


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