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Saying Goodbye to My Last “Boy”

There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven; A time to be born and a time to die. --Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

My beloved black lab Zeke died this past Saturday, and it was a very difficult experience for me. He was 15 years and 7 months old—105 in dog years— so I knew that it was just a matter of time. But, as my wife, Yvette, and I comforted him as he breathed his last and as my tears began to flow, I realized why Zeke’s death was impacting me so deeply. It wasn’t just him who was dying. An important part of me—a season of my life—was dying too.

You see, when I brought Zeke into our family many years ago, he was a present for my young sons—Jamin and Justin. He was to be “their” dog and taking care of him was going teach them a critical life lesson…how to be responsible for another. But, Zeke was not your ordinary dog. He was a special bundle of joy and a veritable love machine, and it wasn’t long before he was not just theirs but he was mine too—one of my boys.

Somehow, he had firmly and permanently “leashed” himself to my heart—just like his two-legged “brothers.” In fact, it’s pretty hard to think about being a young father with my sons without thinking about Zeke.

And, that’s why his death was so hard for me. My sons, now men, left their “season of boyhood” years ago. Alas, it was my job as their father to make sure that this was so. However, truth be told, while I was so pleased to watch them become the men they are now, I mourned the loss of the boys that they once were. But Zeke, a faithful and constant presence, was my solace.

Now he is gone and I will miss him. He was such a good boy.

So, we buried Zeke in rich black topsoil in our backyard, just outside our kitchen window. My wife, ever the green thumb, has already planted flowers and bulbs that are sure to bloom for many seasons to come. These blooms will be bitter as a daily reminder of loss, yet very sweet as a memorial to a life, and to lives, that I love.

In the weeks and the months to come, I will make my peace with this new “normal,” just as I did when my other boys left. Seasons change and life must always goes on. That is the way of time.

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