The loss of a pet can be a devastating grieving process, but Melissa Presser learned that it was also a lesson in the power of God’s love.
The presence of love is a funny thing. Often times we do not understand its power until it’s gone. Though we are surrounded by it daily, it is the gift we often take for granted, and the empty space it leaves behind when that physical connection is gone becomes the barren field for God’s tender care.
2020 brought a slowdown to my soul, a great introspection, moments of confusion and of clarity. It also brought with it the gift of working from home. Not only did I get to spend more time with my husband and children, but also with my beloved dogs Layla and Amber as well. And though I did not realize it, during one of the most tumultuous years of my life, I was surrounded by a silent love, a delicious and rich love, a love that I was only unconsciously aware of.
Several months into the year, I began to notice a change in myself. Even on my most frustrating days, I was surrounded by a love that changed me. While my children occupied three different areas in my house so that they could focus on virtual learning, I set up shop in a small space at our dining room table. Next to me were my precious pups, one on each side. They would sit next to me as long as I sat, get up with me when I went to get a drink, follow me outside when I needed a break from the world. And on days when work was just unbearable, Layla would lick away my tears while Amber sat at my feet. The three of us would just sit together while I silently prayed in my heart for relief. They were always there, always faithful, day in and day out. They didn’t care about whether I was happy or sad, whether I worked hard that day or if I felt like talking. We engaged in that same routine over and over. They would lick my wounds, inside and out.
So, when Amber got sick, I panicked. The doctor said it was probably cancer and I told him it wasn’t, that it couldn’t be. We prayed a family Rosary and I told God that it couldn’t happen right now, that I wasn’t ready. And God heard my prayer. He kept her alive for six more months.
It was shortly after that when I woke up to find Amber shaking uncontrollably in the corner. Her vitals were not good. I knew in my heart that it would not end well, and this is how I started 2021. Within a few days, my Amber was gone.
The next day after Amber went to heaven, Layla became distressed and inconsolable. I could not comfort her; I could not tend to her wounds in the same way she had tended to mine. She looked for her sister and could not find her, and my heart exploded with grief.
Within 24 hours of Amber’s passing, Layla became ill. Our worst fears came true when the vet told us it was malignant cancer, but it was the place of the cancer that gripped me. The cancer was in the very center of her heart. I took my precious girl home for a day of hospice care. 24 hours of the longest most painful goodbye. But it was also 24 hours of the most intentional and intimate love of God that I have ever experienced. Four days after Amber passed, Layla passed. Such is the power of love.
The way we grieve is the way we love, and I love deeply. #catholicmom
My heart is still aching, writhing and breaking in ways that I did not think possible. The way we grieve is the way we love, and I love deeply.
The tender love of my precious girls was an under the table love, as is Christ's; a pure and silent love but a palpable one. It exists in places of the heart that we are unaware of. It lives and moves and has our being. It is an all-encompassing love, a greater love, a love that surpasses all understanding.
Love appears even stronger in grief. And when grief grips you with the power of an uncontrollable sadness, love grips you even harder. It is in those moments of panic and pain and tears that I am reminded that God’s love is greater than any sorrow, greater than any pain than I could ever feel. That His love for me is all encompassing, and swallows the tidal waves of sorrow; it will swallow you whole if you let it.
I miss my girls terribly but I have them close to me every day, in the silence of my heart, as I have God. It is eternal access to the heart of Christ, and one step closer to the Kingdom of heaven.
Copyright 2021 Melissa Presser
Image: copyright 2021 Melissa Presser
About the Author
Melissa Presser is a Jewish girl who was led home to the Catholic Church by St. Edith Stein, a fellow Jewish Catholic. She is a wife, mother of three, and a seasoned attorney. Melissa is passionate about bringing awareness to mental health issues and stopping the stigma. Find out more about her conversion and ministry at MelissaPresser.com.