A Good Name
Less than a week after we brought home a feisty eight-week-old chocolate Lab, my husband was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. “Amazing Grace” has dogged my steps ever since. Gracie’s antics brought me comfort and laughter as I walked with my husband through his cancer treatments, his death, and beyond. She was with me through the loss of our two other Labs and helped me welcome a new husband into our home. In time Gracie became the dog I always wanted: gentle, obedient, and very social. And something else that I never dreamed of: a pastoral assistant. Our dog-friendly church welcomed her presence in my office and at Saturday evening service. She warmly greeted our food pantry shoppers. After Superstorm Sandy, Gracie found her niche spending time with the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance volunteer work teams who came to stay at our church while working on home repairs. Her presence gave them a feel of home away from home.
Grace was a regular attender of AA meetings, where people gathered around tables in a large square. She walked around during the meeting making sure that every single person felt a bump from her cold nose. The same thing happened at Saturday service. She was never happy until she had said hello to each one. Once she had greeted everyone, she chose one person and settled down to snore through my sermon. Sometimes it was the person with a treat in his or her pocket. More often it was the person who was lonely or sad.
True to her name, she aged Grace-fully over thirteen years. Severe arthritis and cancer gradually reduced her mobility, but they couldn’t stop her humor. On a Saturday evening in April she snoozed in my office while the service went on without her. But when the congregation began to sing the last hymn, “Grace Alone,” Gracie marched quickly into the sanctuary, wagging her tail each time her name was sung.
That was her last visit to church. Gracie died on May 11, 2015, but God’s Amazing Grace will always be in my heart.