Kindness of Strangers

Innocence Mission again. Same album; different song.

But that loaded phrase has been a song of its own in my heart and mind these past few days. A token of grace and a good word of God’s love poured out through other people.

You aren’t really strangers, of course. Some of you heard of our grief first-hand. Some of you literally rolled up your sleeves and bore our burden with us. Some of you are a smiling face behind a stream of regular comments. But every one of you has given me the relief that we humans are always gasping after: the knowledge that we’re not alone. And the fact that you care–so deeply–and that you take the time to tell me is really just amazing. I’ve gone through your words with tears in my eyes–messages, comments, emails. I’ve read the poems you’ve suggested and I’ve cherished the Scriptures and quotes. And I’ve admired the love you bear towards your own friendly beasts. I thought I would just duck my head into the comments and tell you there what your kindness has meant. But I decided  it deserved a post of its own.

So thank you. Thank you for revering my sorrow. It isn’t popular to grieve over an animal, at least not according to the dictates of smug-faced pop-theology that assumes everything’s all figured out and every mystery accounted for. I know–you know–there’s more to it than a set of rules (acceptable grieving being among them) and a bunch of closed doors with nothing on the other side. I have been thinking long thoughts along these lines; perhaps they will germinate into a post.

But I wanted you to know what your kindness has meant, and not just on this occasion. Kipling said it so well: “We give our hearts to dogs to tear.” And to cats, I might add. And goats and sheep and chickens. And what a privilege it is to be thus torn. I’d not go through life whole, without such precious scars, for all the world.

Puck and Pansy

7 Responses to “Kindness of Strangers”

  1. Rebekah Dickinson says:

    Hello dearest friend,
    I was so sorry to hear about Pansy and Juno- I hope you are bearing up and you are hearing comfort from God and from others and myself.

    I failed my exam–I found out this week so rather disappointed but I will have to simply study again and re-sit in October. Not the end of the world.
    lots of love

  2. Stacy says:

    Lanier, prayers for you and Philip during this incredibly sad time. May the comfort of our Lord be with you both. In His Peace.

  3. Florence says:

    “Precious scars”–Yes, that’s what love entails.

  4. Sheena Walsh says:

    Dear Lanier, I wanted to post my sympathy to you a couple of days ago but thought it would be superfluous, as many other people have beautifully expressed theirs. Your post today suggested that perhaps it would still be welcome. There is a line in one of Antonia Forest’s book – “It was always misery past bearing when animals died”, “Peter’s Room”, which your exquisitely-expressed post recalled to me. The character was comforted by recalling Emily Bronte’s grief when her cat died. My father’s cat has recently died, and for a stoic man of nearly seventy who is a Warden of his church, he was absolutely devastated, and my mother and I for him. The measure of your love and appreciation is the measure of your grief. It is a great blessing (and the result of meekness and resilience) to be so capable of loving. When the light flickers out in a loving living being, the world loses, but they are home and jumping all over the gardens and meadows of heaven. (hope this isn’t too long and jumbled).

  5. Lanier, I meant to comment on your other post, but life distracted me. I just wanted to say that I, too, have grieved for an animal and I truly feel your pain. I am so sorry, my friend.

  6. Wendy says:

    precious Lanier – I’ve just now had a chance to pop onto Griffin’s computer and the first thing
    I wanted to do was check in – I know you know how much I love you and have been grieving
    right along with you. But, your words on grieving are ever so true and profound. Our ‘pets’ do
    become part of our family and we would never give up the loving to be spared from the grieving.
    It just shows how greatly we’ve been able to love!

    By the way, just as a side note to give you a smile, guess whose LONE picture sits by Griffin’s bedside? No… not her mom’s or dad’s – but YOURS ! : ) I think it’s priceless. Love you! many, many, hugs…..

  7. Elaine says:


    You and I are very different in all manner of ways: theologically, in our views about the roles of women and man, and in our daily lives, Nonetheless, I enjoy reading your blog and was particularly moved by your description of grieving the deaths of your animals. Fortunately, at the church of which I am a member, we regularly celebrate and commemorate the animals in our lives, whether long beloved dogs and cats, new ferrets or guinea pigs, and even a hermit crab which was among the animals blessed on the Feast of St. Francis. Since we have a number of people in the congregation without children, animals are especially dear to many of us, and their comings and goings are marked with shared grief, reverence and thanksgiving. Bless you as remember those precious members of your family. Best, Elaine

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