One Year Later: A lesson in faith

It’s been a year since Holly died. And my heart still hurts. I miss her so much.

The Sunday after she was gone, we went to church as usual, even though I didn’t want to get out of bed much less get dressed and go anywhere public. I had no interest in the service, the music, the sermon. Didn’t care. All I could think about was the grief that had invaded our lives.

Throughout the service, I prayed, as I had been doing since Holly died. It wasn’t an elaborate prayer. Nothing formal or fancy. Just, “Please give me some kind of hope that I’ll see her again.”

Now, I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes. And others of you are straightening your theological lapels and readying a rebuttal. And that’s fine. Just hear me out.

I grew up in the church. And I learned, as most do, that animals don’t go to heaven, because animals don’t have souls. How anyone can state this for fact, I have no idea. But that’s the stance I’ve always heard from pastors and others “in the know”.

Anyway, from the moment Holly died, I began to pray that I’d get to see her again. Usually my prayer goes something like: “When I die, please let Holly be there to meet me.”

There are two things I rarely talk about on here or with others: politics and faith. Though I have strong opinions on both, I’m not very vocal about either. I’m a peacemaker by nature, and would walk through a pit of snakes to avoid conflict. But here’s the thing: I believe in a loving, merciful God. And I think he revealed his love and mercy to me that Sunday after Holly died.

After the service, we went out to lunch at a sushi restaurant near our church. Over tempura veggies, I told my husband what I’d been thinking about and reading about animals and God and heaven. And I told him what I’d prayed.

At the end of our meal, our waiter brought us fortune cookies with our bill. We each chose one and opened them to read our fortunes, as we usually do. I took one look at my “fortune” and, stunned, I started to cry.

While my husband, son and daughter each had Confucius sayings, my fortune read: “Faith is the evidence of things unseen.”

Did God give me a nudge via a fortune cookie? Call me crazy, but I think he did.

Am I going to see my sweet Holly again? Call me crazy, but I believe I will.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

12 Comments Add yours

  1. charlene Rehfeldt Bailey Crowe says:

    My dear Amy,

    I hope that you’ll send me your personal email so I can respond to this beautiful message about Holly. I have a strong, very strong feeling that God would never create a precious animal that would serve to be a pet and a beloved part of a family if he did not have a special place in His kingdom for them.

    I have a long history on this subject…..somewhat funny and not so funny. I believe in ALL OF HIS PROMISES…..AND I BELIEVE HIS CREATION IS PERFECT…..and I’d really like to write to you.

    1. Thanks, Char. I agree, and would love to hear your stories. I’m sending you an email right now. 🙂

  2. I don’t have a doubt in the world that you will be reunited and in fact, I’m sure she’s watching over you as we speak. Love is love.

    1. Thanks, Kimmie! Love you. ❤

  3. Whoever said animals don’t have souls wasn’t God.

    1. I love the way you think, Tahlia. 🙂

  4. Lisa Nowak says:

    It takes a long time to heal when a pet dies. It took me two years to get past losing my cat Casey. I’ve never bought into that idea that animals don’t go to heaven. That sounds like human ego to me. Just because something comes to be taught in a church doesn’t make it accurate or right. Churches are run by humans, and humans are imperfect. If they were perfect, they wouldn’t need churches.

  5. L Wakelin says:

    Hi Holly, I have 2 special pets that have captured my heart over the years that I have lost, and I too hope to see them in heaven. My dear cat died almost TWENTY YEARS AGO and I still have thoughts of her! I lost a 13-year-old dog last November that still makes me weep sometimes. It’s hard for me to picture living eternally without them. Who really knows?

    I initially came upon your story of Holly because my other dog Murphy who is 15 recently was prescribed Deramaxx for arthritis in his hips. I told my vet that he probably wasn’t long for this world–he has moderate kidney disease, is deaf, blind and losing his sense of smell. I just wanted something to make him comfortable for his remaining time. I had no idea I was going to almost kill him with Deramaxx! When he started the meds, it took 5-6 days before his arthritis began to really improve, another 5-6 days of a spritely dog, followed by the worst 5-6 days of his life. Vomiting, bloody diarrhea, lethargic, not eating, barely drinking, lack of coordination, and depression. Not only that, but his kidney disease, eyesight and sense of smell WORSENED. I suspected the drug was the problem after he started showing his first symptoms of vomiting and acting kind of odd, so I searched the internet and found your story on Holly, so I stopped the meds about 6 days ago. By then, he was on them about 2 weeks. I was at the vet clinic a few days ago and the only thing that stopped me from euthanizing him was it was my birthday and I just couldn’t do it. I told myself it would happen the next day. Then he started to improve a little bit, then the next day a bit more, then a bit more. Six days later, he’s getting his spirit and appetite back, so it’s taking some time for the drugs to leave his system. The only warning my vet gave me before prescribing the drug was that she “normally wouldn’t give the drug to a dog with Murphy’s poor kidney state” but she considered his arthritic pain more immediately pressing than the potential for longer-term kidney damage. She never said anything about ulcers, bleeding and all the other symptoms he showed. He’s now on an opiate for the pain which has very few reported side effects.

    I wanted to say thank you for sharing your painful story which may have helped my dog survive. At least for now.

    God bless.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing Murphy’s story! I’m relieved (tears as I type this) that he’s improving and the new med is helping with his arthritis. It continues to amaze me how many dogs encounter troubles with Deramaxx and still vets prescribe it with little testing or monitoring. All we can do is share our stories so others don’t suffer. God bless you and Murphy. I pray your remaining time together is sweet. Please scruff his ears for me and tell him I think he’s very brave. (And you are, too!) ♥

  6. Hi, Amy.

    I ran across your blog today when Googling “do dogs go to heaven.” It sounds like a ridiculous thing to Google, but I lost a beloved friend, Maddie, yesterday after rescuing her from a shelter in 2002 and having many years of joy with her. My heart is broken, as is that of my husband and two kids. It feels like there is this big hole in our family now, and none of us really know how to handle it. We can’t believe she’s gone.

    Reading your blog gave me hope that I will see my sweet girl again someday. I firmly believe that animals have souls, but I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle with faith, being someone who usually must SEE something to believe in it. I hate not knowing something for absolute certain. I realize that there is no way for me to ever have certainty about this until I die myself, but it’s a comfort still. I am grateful for your words.

    1. Haley, I’m so sorry about Maddie. I know what you mean about the hole. Maddie was a member of your family. Holly was a member of ours. They come into our lives, curl up in our hearts and love us better than most people know how. When they’re gone, they leave an empty space that aches. For a long time. I struggle with faith, too. For me, it’s like a candle flame. Sometimes the flame is strong and grows tall, and other times it flickers and threatens to go out. There are things I hold onto, though, that seem to help always keep it lit. One of them is the fortune cookie. I pray that you will also have specific markers like that, anchor points, to hold onto, to keep your faith alive. I believe we’re going to see our sweet friends again. I really do. It doesn’t take the pain away, but it makes it somehow more bearable. I’m so glad you found my blog post. (After Holly died, I googled “do dogs go to heaven” too!) I’m glad to know my words and my family’s experience has helped you. That also makes the pain a little less. Thank you. ❤

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