The Final Lesson from Jewel by Lisa Burkhardt Worley

“You’ll know when it’s time.”

This was our veterinarian’s response when I asked him how I’d know when it was time to mercifully put our sweet Goldendoodle, Jewel, down. Over the past six months, she had been struggling with a number of health issues—a brain tumor, early–stage kidney failure, a heart murmur, a recent bout with Pancreatitis and a Urinary Tract Infection. She was on so many meds it was difficult to keep them straight. Still, I did not want take her life in my hands. I wanted God to tell me when it was the end.

Jewel had been having periodic seizures because of the brain tumor, but on Sunday she suffered back-to-back seizures. She was in apparent pain with the second one, which also affected her cognitive function. There are details I will not share but because of what happened following the second seizure, we knew it was time. Since it was a Sunday, we held on one more day so we could take Jewel to the veterinary hospital she was familiar with, a place where she boarded at times, received great care, and was loved by the staff. Unfortunately, at 2:15 a.m. Monday morning, Jewel had one more seizure prior to our taking her to the vet. It was a confirmation we were making the right decision.

Before the procedure took place, the veterinary staff filed in to say their goodbyes. One vet tech cried as she grabbed Jewel, hugged her tightly and kissed her. My own tears flowed as the staff paid an emotional tribute to a dear dog who knew no stranger, loved unconditionally and was always excited to see everyone. She was my own constant companion—at my feet in the mornings when I did my Bible study, and cuddling with me at night—always waiting for her belly scratch. She was my shadow throughout the day, following me from room–to–room, but the shadow would now be gone as I had to say goodbye.

And now the final lesson from Jewel: It’s okay to mourn.

The sadness I felt Monday was almost unbearable. I felt like I’d lost my best friend. I was unproductive and remained in bed all afternoon. Always one to push through difficulties, I kept my appointments on Tuesday, including a luncheon I attended. As I sat there in a haze, barely able to converse with the other ladies at the table, I realized I was not ready to be social. I was still struggling. Still grieving. At the dentist office Thursday there was a dog barking outside—unusual for an office space. On a Zoom meeting last week, someone’s dog was barking in the background. Every time I heard or saw a dog, I thought about Jewel.

I believe my hyper-sensitivity to dogs is part of the mourning process—it will pass. But through all this, I’ve realized it’s okay to mourn. God had a timing for Jewel’s life and He has a timing for our healing. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” And God did comfort me this past week, using countless Facebook friends who shared kind words on my post about Jewel. My husband, who was out of town all week, checked on me periodically to make sure I was okay.

I also received a couple of other blessings last week including the beautiful blooming of our Crepe Myrtle Tree in the backyard. I had been so preoccupied with Jewel that I did not notice it. I know God had something to do with all of the uplifting surprises because I believe his Word that promises He saves me when I am brokenhearted.

The truth is all of us will experience loss one day, whether it’s the death of a canine, feline or the loss of a beloved human in our lives, and we should allow ourselves to grieve. Don’t do business as usual. Take the time needed to heal. Cry a bucket-full of tears. It’s okay to mourn—my final lesson from Jewel.

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