Bella in Italy

Our hearts are breaking with the news that our wonderful little Bella has passed away suddenly this week, and we share our grief, and our joy, that we found in this beautiful creation of God.

We have hundreds of wonderful memories of Bella, a feisty terrier mix that was also calm and gentle, a rare mix in a terrier. From Diane’s first memory of how they chose each other at the shelter to the way Bella would greet us when we came home with a toy. And if we went outside to the garage and came back in, that was another chance to greet us happily. Her constant companionship in the evenings while watching a movie. And her compulsive vice to shred Kleenex if given the opportunity. And the way we would hide our suitcases from her when going on a trip, for Bella understood that we were going on a trip without her.

This trip was going to be different, though. We discovered that bringing a small dog to Italy was easier than we expected, so we changed our flights and made all the arrangements. Her trip to Italy had so many firsts – her first airplane, her first escalator, her first elevator, her first taxi. She handled all them bravely, quietly, though anxiously we could tell when she trembled.

This last week she went to her first Italian restaurants and sat quietly and patiently. After a week in our apartment, she had learned to navigate the stairs to the front door as we took her for her daily walks to the parks where she chased pigeons from her new territory. And she went to church for the first time in Florence this past Sunday. If you would ask Bella if she knew Jesus, she’d happily agree with you.

On Thursday, the staff informed us that during the cleaning of the apartment, Bella left the apartment through the open door, navigated the stairs, and was seen exiting the front doors. For hours we searched the city streets with the help of some good friends, then posted missing posters, then searched some more. And we cried. And we prayed, for ultimately the source of all things is the Lord our God.

Friday evening I received a call from the apartment staff that she had been found, but she had not survived being alone in the city. Later this morning, I am to accompany then to identify our precious little girl and complete some sort of paperwork. Bella gave us 11 years of affection and love, and we grieve deeply that she is no longer with us. For those of you whose lives she also touched, we know you also share our grief. We began last night by picking up her food and water dish, little dresses, and leash, because they are stark reminders that she will not ever be needing them again.

From all of our friends and family, we ask for your prayers for comfort for us as we begin grieving for our loss, and we give thanks to our Lord for giving us many wonderful years from His beautiful creation. He is truly amazing that He created such joy and beauty in such a tiny package.

Goodbye, Bella. We miss you, and we are so thankful you gave us warmth, affection, and love to our lives.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Bread and Milk

I found some memories today, tucked back in a corner somewhere.

I’ve been trying to lose weight, and working on portion control. It’s the Nutrisystem, and it’s been good so far. Not dramatic results, but a pound lost each week is healthy. This morning for my carbohydrate, I had a slice of wheat bread, and for my protein, I had a glass of milk.

And ate them together. My grandfather used to tear bread slices into 2″ pieces and soak them in a glass of milk, then eat them with a fork. Bread and milk together has a unique taste, not found in either bread nor milk alone. I was surprised to find they tasted a memory of my grandfather.

My grandfather was active in community, active in church, and taught bible study for decades. In all the time I knew him, I never heard a single harsh word from him. He had umpteen opportunities to do so; as an active kid with a slingshot, I probably provided plenty of them. But never did he speak an unkind word that I heard.

Thank you, Oh Lord, for the memory today. My grandfather was a wonderful, patient, kind man of God, and I thank you for the time I had to know him while he walked this world. He is still an example many years later of your light shining through men.

Brother Michael

It was a special blessing this past week. I am not a pastor (nor do I play one on tv), but 2 weeks ago my nephew eloped. To who? When? What do we know about her? The angst was carved into tiny slices and digested by all.

The family decision was made – they’re just going to have to get married again, this time with family present. The wedding will be in a week, and my brother, the renegade boy’s father, started gathering his research notes for his new book, “How to Plan a Wedding in Four Days for Under $20”. Wednesday, my brother called me casually and mentioned no church was available. They would get married in the local park.

“That sounds nice,” I said.

“We also can’t get a pastor on such short notice,” he said.

There was a nice long pause here. What was he trying to say?

After discussing it with my pastor and making sure I wasn’t breaking any laws or anything, I agree to perform the re-wedding ceremony. It dawned on me halfway through that at most weddings, the pastor tells everybody what to do, and everybody kept looking at me, wondering when I was going to get bossy. When I realized that was my job, I got bossy.

The wedding was beautiful and went off with …1…2… 3 hitches, I think. Maybe 4 if you count the elopement. Here’s a pic of the happy couple with the self-ordained pastor:
Brother Michael performs a wedding ceremony