Last week was a difficult time. Our beloved cat of 6 years passed. We had just taken Charlie to the veterinarian to determine what was wrong with him. After draining 5 pounds of fluid from his abdomen, a large tumor was discovered on his liver. We were told we may have weeks or possibly a few months. Sadly, this wasn’t the case. I came home from work that night to find my wife crouched by the litter box, crying uncontrollably. I removed the lid to find Charlie face down in litter with little time remaining. His breaths were shallow yet rapid and his eyes showed fear. I placed him on the bed and we held him while softly speaking his name. It was incredibly sad to see death creeping in. There was nothing beautiful about it. I choose to believe Charlie had already clocked out while his body went through the violent motions. After a few minutes, he stopped moving and his eyes were blank. The sweet boy who had slept by my wife’s pillow every night was gone.
Of course, the following days would be difficult. We had to figure out how to break it to the kids the next morning. Needless to say, there were a lot of tears involved.We held a small ceremony in the backyard where everybody said their last goodbyes. My wife kept saying how she’d never see him again and how the spot next to her pillow would feel so empty. One of my children asked if Charlie would be in heaven. That left me with the unpleasant task of explaining how animals, upon dying, simply cease to exist. There is no heaven or an afterlife. When my wife said Charlie was gone, that was a very accurate statement. It was at that moment that I saw the beauty behind the sorrow. Yes, Charlie was gone but there was so much more going on.
To many of us, pets are an extension of the family. They’re like our four-legged children. They have different personalities, express love, show loyalty, and clearly perceive the world around them. However, despite all this, they are vastly different from mankind. The beauty that I could now see was in just how special humanity was. Genesis 1 presents us with the narrative of Creation. We see, in verses 24-25, God simply makes the beasts of the earth. They’re made each after their own kind and God saw that it was good. This had been the pattern in each of the previous days as well. However, verse 27 brings a whole new twist. When God created man, he didn’t simply bring us into existence. We see a very personal act taking place. We were made in the image of God. He breathed into us the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). The Hebrew word for “breath” is nĕshamah which means either breath or spirit. If we look deeper, we see God is breathing HIS breath into man. We see a similar act in John 20:22 when Jesus breathes on the disciples and tells them to, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Indeed, mankind is vastly different from the animal kingdom. Though we may share a great many traits, the very breath of God is what sets us apart. We have a spirit that lives on eternally. We have a spirit that will spend eternity with the Father in heaven through the reconciliation of the Son (2 Corinthians 5:18). Our pets are loved by their owners but we are loved by God Almighty! It’s precisely because we have an eternal destination that we also have a responsibility to proclaim Christ at every turn. It’s only through faith in Christ that one will ever see heaven. The alternative is dark and dismal, filled with terror (Matthew 13:42). The alternative is not only death but eternal death and torment. For as much as we care about our beloved pets, should we not also care deeply for those made in the image of God?
As I stated earlier, though there was nothing beautiful about what took place on our bed that night, I was still able to eventually see the beauty of the gospel in the midst of it. My hope is that, whenever you may be presented with a challenge, you will be able to see it as well. My further prayer is that it will encourage you to act upon it and be a faithful witness for the cause of Christ.
~Travis W. Rogers