Put the Shovel Away

Frank the dog, formally known as Francis, is 11 years old. Gina and I adopted him in October of 2005, nine months before we were married. He was two then. Over the years, I have come to love him. He’s a great guy. As of late, I’ve been noticing more grey hair on his muzzle, the fact that he seems to sleep more than he used to, and other subtle signs of the fact that, in “dog years”, he’s in his late seventies. I mentioned this tonight to a parishioner of mine, saying something like, “Frank is getting older…when it’s his time, I’m really going to be a mess. I really love that dog!” This woman loves dogs, is an internationally recognized judge, breeds them, and besides all that, she’s faithful and wise and kind. She listened to me, we got on to another topic, and then she had to leave.

I went back to my office and got to some work waiting on my desk. The parish phone rang. She was calling me to follow up on our chat about Frank. She said, “Scott, put the shovel away. “ She told me about a dog that she was very close to – “he was in my heart”, she said. She shared that, as he got older, she got worried about him dying, thought about it, and it made her sad. She discovered this was not a good use of time or energy. She said, “I decided I needed to put the shovel away and live, and enjoy him and take care of him. So Scott, put the shovel away. When it’s time, you’ll know where it is and then you can face the death of your dear companion. Until then, put it away and live.” Very wise and thoughtful words that apply to so much more in life.

I am usually the guy telling people that worry is a waste of time, that Jesus reminds us to live our lives in the here and now, and that being in the moment is the most healthy and life-giving way to live. Tonight I was blessed by the fact that it took someone else, someone who cared and has a good deal of experience, to remind me that what I have is right now, this moment, today. That applies to Frank, but to so much more. I am a spouse, Dad and priest – today, in the here-and-now. I can waste time fretting about what may or may not happen. I can use precious energy and time to obsess about that which I cannot control, or I can live now, in this moment, and be grateful for the amazing gifts and blessings in my life, including the blessing of this good pooch.

“Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them…Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?…But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” (Matthew 6:26, 27, 33, 34a)

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