Last night my wife and I held our dog Boo one last time. I kissed her on the head as her heart slowed to stop. We’d been at this same emergency hospital, staffed with wonderful people, just six months before with our thirteen -year old Italian Greyhound Teddy after a cancerous tumor hemorrhaged in his abdomen. We would decide the next day to end his suffering. Boo came as an unexpected gift into our lives while we were experiencing intense grieving over Teddy. I was unsure I was capable of giving the kind of love Boo deserved, and yet there were few options for her. Over the last six months my wife and I have allowed ourselves to love her, and so now we suffer her absence.
I’ve enjoyed the jokes going around about the recent doomsday predictions for this first lovely day in weeks for this part of the country (southeastern New Hampshire; apparently, the end will come differently for different regions/ timezones, etc…). I was particularly amused by the humorous postulations concerning pets (Would they join their “raptured” masters”? Who would be left to care for them?). And yet there is clearly a sadness here too, a way in which human concerns on the macro level remind us of the particulars of our life–the loves and losses that constantly create new emotional worlds for us–apocalypses (literally, “unveilings”) large and small that, in Milton’s words, can make a Heaven of Hell and Hell of Heaven.
I provide no theories about the earth’s fate or the fate of our species, religious or secular. My mother recently lost her closest friend, and I saw how her world was changed forever. My family spent a wonderful day together after the funeral, and I could see that love was still possible for my mother, and the rest of us, in this new world. And isn’t that what all the great religious traditions have tried to teach us? Love survives us and is always at the ready to transform this shifting and uncertain reality.