The final lap is the hardest one. You have been going for awhile already. You are tired. Your body hurts. It is, quite frankly, often very tempting to stop at this point and just be done. That is why I am so profoundly impressed when I hear about the people who not only run the race themselves, but push a loved one who can’t run themselves. Why I find it awe inspiring when a racer who is so close to the end themselves, drops back to race side by side with another racer who needs to be held up to cross the finish line. In this life, it is hard enough to complete the race ourselves, let alone help someone else to that end point themselves.
Smokey is in his final lap. And he is tired. His race is shorter than mine. And me, well, I have been dreading this lap for some time. My heart is breaking. Because all I can do is pick him up, and carry him to the finish line. After 16 years of love, loyalty, and friendship, he deserves to end his race hand in hand with the person he trusts and loves most.
The end of life is not less important than the beginning. Both beginning, end, and many laps in the middle are all part of the race. Some have a long race, some a very short one. Some must race over mountains and plod on through desserts, whereas some get to race on flat ground. All have a final lap, but not all know they are in that final lap. Every racer though, when they cross that finish line, has achieved a vast accomplishment.
There were times, in my race, where I just dropped to the ground, and could not get back up. The demon depression overtook my will to plod forward. It may come as a surprise to some who know me well, although surely not all, that this 20 pound gray cat was the one who carried me then. Some of us hit a point in our lives when we are not able to see God in the people around us, and if we do, we don’t let them carry us. That was me for a time in my 20s. But our God is a great God, and I truly believe he sent me one who I would let carry me. And that was my “Boo.” God gave me a piece of himself in a little animal because that was what I could receive. And now, I must give my precious friend back to God.
And I don’t want to.
When I have cried and asked God how I would make it through this, I heard Him say, quite clearly: “I AM.” I would make it through this because God IS. I don’t have to carry my grief alone.
We live in a culture that does grief poorly. We feel forced to hide our pain at loss for the most part, and not much is said about the impact our losses have on us, and how they change us. And how we must walk though the grief instead of skirting around it. How it won’t swallow us like I had feared, but that it will change us.
This is the hardest loss I have ever faced. And I am weak. But the Lord, He makes me brave. So for the hours, days, or maybe weeks I have left with my friend, and for the rest of my race I still have ahead, I am most grateful that I know one, who all the while I feel alone, is, in fact, carrying me towards my finish line. Which friends, I hope, is a long time from now.
The Race of Faith
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”