Anna’s dog Max couldn’t lift his head to eat. His eyes drooped and his tongue was grey. Anna dropped a piece of bacon in front of Max’s nose. Max opened his eyes, sniffed the bacon, and went back to sleep.
“I guess we have to take him to the vet,” said Anna’s mom. Anna gave Max a hug and rubbed behind his ears. Max licked her nose which made Anna smile.
Anna’s dad picked up Max, supporting his hind quarters, and gently placed Max on his blanket in the backseat of the car. The same blanket that Max slept on when dad took Max hunting.
“Stay here with your mom,” said her dad. “We’ll be back soon.”
Anna watched the car back out of the garage and drive down the street.
About an hour later her dad arrived home. Max wasn’t with him. Her dad’s eyes were very red.
“Where’s Max?” asked Anna.
Anna’s dad looked at her mom, not knowing what to say. Anna’s mom sat Anna down.
“Anna, Max was very old and very sick,” explained her mom. “He was in a lot of pain.”
Anna stared at them, not liking where this conversation was going.
“Do you remember when Grandpa got sick?” asked her mom.
“Yes,” replied Anna.
“Max was sick like grandpa.” Anna’s dad continued.
Anna’s eyes grew large. A tear trickled down her cheek.
“Max is in heaven!?” Anna asked, barely able to talk because her throat was suddenly sore; the kind of soreness you get when you’re really sad.
Anna tried to say more but her words were caught in her throat. She ran to her bedroom and slammed the door behind her. With her head buried in her pillow, Anna cried harder than she ever believed she could cry.
Anna’s parents knocked on her bedroom door.
“Go away!” shouted Anna, her voice breaking through the sobs.
A few minutes later, her older brother Eric appeared at her bedroom door. Anna looked up at him and said,
“I guess you think I’m a real suck.”
As Eric stepped closer, she saw tear streaks on his cheeks.
“Why would I think that?” Eric asked. “Max was a great dog. I remember when you were born; Max parked himself in front of your crib and didn’t move for two days. He growled at Uncle Roger when you cried while he held you.”
“He growled?” asked Anna, smiling softly.
“Yeah. Remember when Max jumped on the table before supper and ran away with the roast beef and dad chased him all over house, and then he hid under the stairs and ate it?”
“That was funny,” said Anna, her eyes looking up at the ceiling. Her face changed. She was sad again. Anna blew her nose and began to cry.
“Remember at Sunday school when the teacher told us about Jesus crying when his friend Lazarus died?”
“I think Jesus cried because he loved his friend so much. I think we cry because we love. Sometimes we think we are weak when we cry. But I think it takes a lot of strength. It takes strength to love. So it takes strength to cry.”
Anna didn’t know if she was weak or if she was strong. She just knew that she hurt inside. She missed Max. So she and Eric said a prayer thanking God for Max. They finished their prayer with words like this as we pray now,
Dear God, thank you for giving us the strength to love. Amen.