“Dear God. Please take care of Squeaky. Amen.”
After my father uttered this solemn prayer, we covered the shoe box with dirt and buried my pet guinea pig. I was about seven years old and my father thought it would be a good idea for me to learn a new responsibility by owning and caring for a pet. My father even enlisted the assistance of our neighbor, who constructed a beautiful cage for Squeaky where she was kept in our backyard. At night, I was instructed to place a tarpaulin over the cage to keep her warm and protected from the elements. I enjoyed caring for Squeaky and was fond of showing her off to my friends but after a month, tragedy struck. One evening, I forgot to cover her cage. The next morning, when I went to feed her, I was horrified to find her lifeless body. My negligence had killed her. Fearfully, I confessed to my father what I had done. Expecting a stern lecture and punishment, I was relieved to find a sympathetic ear.
“We have to a funeral for her.”
I was taken aback by my father’s suggestion. I had never attended a real funeral up to that point in my young life. Now, I was going to conduct one for my pet, a pet that I killed. As the day approached, I tried to keep my mind occupied, downplaying the event. It was not a big deal, just a funeral for a guinea pig, I told myself. Yet, I was nervous and frightened. During the funeral, I turned my face away from my father so he could not see the tears in my eyes.
As I reflect upon this event that occurred nearly fifty years ago, I am struck by things that escaped my attention these many years. Up to that point in my life, my father never talked about God nor did he ever hint that he was religious. Why did my father suggest we pray to God? Was he attempting to instill a life lesson by using this teachable moment of my pet’s death? Sadly, I will never learn the answer, at least not in this lifetime. My father and I never spoke of the event again. My father passed away a few years ago, leaving me with uncertainty whether he truly knew God or whether he was invoking God’s name at the funeral because of tradition or politeness.
The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.
Isaiah 50:4 (ESV)
Memories convey powerful life lessons. This sad memory of my first pet contained much deeper life lessons than I ever realized. I have many regrets in my life but one of my greatest is that I did not spend more time speaking to my father about Jesus Christ. After I became a Christian, I would share the Gospel with him, but we often found ourselves butting heads. He was reluctant to share what he truly believed about God. Life can wear us down. The incessant demands of our family and his job may have been overwhelming at times. After a long day, perhaps the last thing anyone, including my father, would want to do is to debate the merits of God. I wish I could have found more common points of discussion like Squeaky’s funeral, instead of focusing on points of differences. I should have been more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guiding to extend God’s grace and mercy to my weary father, rather than trying to win an argument.
I pray that someday in Heaven, I will see my father. Together with Squeaky, we could share the many life lessons that he would have liked to impart unto me but was unable. I also continue to pray for opportunities to share the Good News about Jesus Christ for all who do not yet know Him. I have been blessed with many wonderful teachers in Jesus Christ. I pray that God will continue to give me every opportunity to sustain and uplift those who are weary.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.