NORMAN — My grandmother, who lived to be 96, spent the last four years of her life in a nursing home just blocks from where we lived. She lived across the hall from the pop machine and would ask us when we arrived, “Got 50 cents? Bring me a Pepsi.” That and a baked potato every afternoon when my mother would visit pretty much set her up.
My mother’s daily presence and those two tasty treats were the highlights of her days in those years.
Many of her fellow residents found similar pleasure in the monthly visit from dogs from a nonprofit agency that provided companion animals for differently abled folks. People who stared in silence most of the time would come alive at the nuzzle of a cold, wet nose. People who no longer had words seemed to communicate thoughts with these furry friends. And people whose smile muscles seemed completely dead would miraculously reanimate as a small dog was placed in their laps.
There’s something about the relationship between people and animals that’s hard to articulate and, for me, points to God’s presence. We theological types spend so much of our lives trying to explain how God works and explain what love is and explain what this or that word really means in scripture.
Sometimes we ought to sit back and say, “Some of this faith journey stuff is a mystery, and we must be at peace with the mystery.” Some of it we just can’t explain. God’s love is nearly impossible to explain, even though many of us work in places where books that try to explain it line the shelves.
How do you explain the love of a being you can’t see or whose existence you can’t prove? It’s about as easy as explaining why you love that kid you’re raising or that guy you married … or that dog who has climbed into bed next to you the last 10 years and whose contented sigh is the last thing you hear before you drift off.