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Inspirational Moments is a beautiful topic for a blog, God at work, in real time, in real life. Anyone who breathes knows an inspirational moment. But, maybe we don’t always appreciate that moment. Scripture admonishes us to live in each moment, not worrying about tomorrow or other things we only think we control. It took my two golden retrievers to actually show me how that’s done. For ten years our ministry was therapy dog visitation. It was actually their ministry. I was the silent one on the other end of the leash, watching and learning how to offer friendship to strangers, comfort to the miserable, companionship to the lonely, peace to the addled. My dogs lived in the moment. I wrote an entire book about their experiences called Just for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of the Therapy Dog. It’s a collection of moments when my dogs made a difference in other people’s lives. I learned to be a better Christian from their example, and I hope sharing their stories will help others. This is a short moment about forgiveness.
When we first met Eddie, he had a lot of stories to tell. There was a picture of him and his fighter plane hanging on his room wall. It looked like a John Wayne poster. The young, handsome fighter pilot in his leather bomber jacket, posed by the wing of his plane, looked totally invincible. He most likely thought he was. There was another picture of him with General Douglas MacArthur. I figured he was close to my Dad’s age. That generation has some mighty stories to tell. But Eddie needed to get his told quickly.
Every week, Eddie was noticeably weaker. Before long Lily moved from his chair to his bedside. Within months, his stories got confused, with no beginning, or no end. He never knew who I was until he saw Lily. Then he knew “his dog” was there.
One morning, while we were visiting, his wife came. She was an attractive woman, fashionably dressed, stylish hair and expensive jewelry. What a handsome military couple they must have been. I imagined them waltzing around a ballroom in the Officers’ Club–happy, and in love. He’d been career military and was probably married in his uniform–I’d guess in the early 50’s.
She seemed agitated. Actually, she seemed angry. I told Lily to wave goodbye to Eddie and we’d come again next week. Eddie didn’t want us to leave. He wanted us to meet his wife and he wanted her to pet “his” dog. He always referred to Lily as “my dog.”
When we returned the following week, he asked if we liked his wife, and if we’d noticed his wife’s anger.
“Let me tell you a story, Lily,” he began. Lily laid her chin near the pillow and got ready to listen. I waited for her in a chair in the corner. As he petted her head, Eddie told her the story of a young flying ace, lots of medals, who was such a big fish in a small pond that when his fighting days were over and he had to become an ordinary fish in a fast moving stream, he found that he didn’t know how to swim.
“You know what I’m saying?” He checked in with Lily. To help himself fit in, he started doing things that he wasn’t proud of.
“Not an excuse, just a reason,” he said, wagging a finger at her nose.
Those behaviors became habits that were hard to break. After several years of trying to break free from the hell he’d created for himself, he fell into a deep depression. His wife and children were angry at him for wasting so many years of his life–and theirs.
“You understand that?” Lily blinked. In a drunken stupor, he fell down the basement stairs and did some serious damage to his brain and spine.
“That’s why I was at the spinal center for so many years. I had a lot of surgeries and a lot of rehab, in lots of places. But, now it’s over. I came here to die. I hope you liked my wife. She’s a really fine lady. She has a right to her anger…you know what I’m saying?” Lily nudged his chin.
Eddie was only here for about 18 months before he died. They held a memorial service for him at the facility. The unit clerk asked if we would come. Lily and I went. I gave my condolences to his wife, not expecting her to remember me from our one quick meeting, months ago. She told me she had asked the unit clerk to invite me because Eddie talked about me all the time.
I was surprised to hear that because he’d never spoken to me. He just talked to Lily–did she like to swim or play ball, if it was snowing outside, would she like a cracker–that kind of thing. I didn’t think he’d ever known my name. He was all about “his” dog.
“You were very special to Eddie. He told me over and over that when Lily looked into his eyes, she could see all the way to his soul. He told me that Lily could see his soul and that she forgave him. I admit I felt jealous. I wish it could have been me. But, I’m glad that someone could forgive him. It meant so much to him to feel forgiven. I just haven’t been able to do that. So… thank you, Lily.” She offered me her hand.
“Oh–I’m not Lily. This–is Lily. She was his therapy dog.”
The woman looked stricken and pale. “The dog? The dog forgave him? Lily–is a dog?” She sat down hard in the straight chair. Lily automatically laid her head in the widow’s lap, where tears dripped onto her golden head.
I’d never seen tears like these that came streaming down like a waterfall with no sobbing. Tears gushed forth from a deep, dark place where I suspect they’d pooled for a very long time. The woman took Lily’s head in her hands and looked into her amber eyes. Lily stared back, unblinking.
“Lily, you were a better friend to Eddie than I was a wife. Can you see into my soul, too, Lily? Can you forgive me, too? Please.”
Lily sat still as stone, dispensing her silent, nonjudgmental therapy. I knew Lily would stand there for as long as she was needed, helping the widow through this difficult moment. I took a seat in the corner and prayed that the widow might come to know the source of real forgiveness and peace.
Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever, wisdom and power are his. He changes lives and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in the darkness and light dwells with him. Daniel 2:20-22. We must forgive each moment, lest it become too late.
About the Author: Deanna Klingel
I was a child in a small town in the 50’s. It was a time when kids amused themselves with paper, scissors, magazines, paste, crayons, and books, while listening to the radio. That’s when I wrote and illustrated my first books, lacing the pages together with shoe strings. Writing wasn’t something I dreamed of doing “when I grow up;” it was something I was already doing. I wrote plays for my classmates, wrote for the school newspapers, yearbook, tons of letters of correspondence with relatives and pen pals. I recently found a yellowed poem I wrote for the Michigan State University newspaper. Don’t remember it, but there it is! After I had kids (7) I wrote puppet plays and stories for them, edited school newsletters, and projects, plays and news for Scouts and church. I wrote all the time. I made scrapbooks, diaries and kept journals. I hadn’t figured out that I was a writer, or an author. That didn’t happen until after the children were grown and I began writing travel books for grandchildren. Then one day it happened. I woke up and said, “I have a story in my head, and I think it wants to be a book. I guess I’ll try to write a book.” It’s been a great ride ever since.