Last year I had to say a tough goodbye to my 16 1/2-year-old dog Biscuit. He was our beloved family pet and resident nuisance who joined our home when I was just 12 years old. It had taken years of begging for my parents to relent and bring him home from the pet store after our last dog had been hit by a car.
I was a wreck. I know he was old and had lived a long, full life, but I loved him! I cried from the time I found out about his upcoming vet appointment until several days after his little heart beat for the last time. I cried again a few days later when I watched the new Pete’s Dragon and couldn’t even handle seeing the dragon’s soft, canine-like eyes and fur. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stomach Marley and Me or My Dog Skip again. Maybe not even Homeward Bound.
I had been given almost 17 years to love my furry family member. But even after 17 years, it still wasn’t enough. 17 years of companionship had tallied up inside my heart and spread like vines to the places I was hesitant to let anything reach.
It’s in the throes of these horrible goodbyes – or sometimes lack thereof, which is arguably worse – that I question whether it’s even worth it.
Is it worth it to love? I mean, I can hardly bear to say goodbye to an animal I love, much less a person. Is it worth it to let my guard down and open my heart, even just a little bit? Knowing that someday there will be a goodbye and that it might be much sooner than I expect?
Because you never know when you’ll lose someone you love.
Or sometimes you do. Sometimes, like I did, you have an exact time frame.
Either way, there are no guarantees in this life except that it will someday end for each of us. We pretend every goodbye is light-years away, but eventually it creeps closer as our hearts do the same.
The truth is that goodbyes are guaranteed.
So is it worth it to love recklessly in the meantime? Knowing full well we’ll have to say goodbye?
Maybe it’s an aging pet like I had. Maybe it’s a terminally ill loved one you haven’t gotten nearly enough time with. Maybe it’s someone who doesn’t even love you back.
I say yes to all of the above.
Love is worth it. You can never regret loving. There will always be people in need of love, and you could be the one to offer it. Love changes things.
And love changes YOU. Even if loving results in heartbreak. Even if it leads you to the most difficult goodbye of your life.
You still loved. You still lived. You allowed your heart to soften. You refused to let fear hold you back, refused to grow cold or indifferent or bitter or inhumane. You gave one of the most beautiful gifts you could give to another person (or maybe pet) and to yourself.
1 Corinthians 13:13b: “But the greatest of these is love.”
You can regret a lot of things in life. Actions, bad decisions, hurtful words, unhealthy choices.
But not love. Don’t ever regret loving.
Never be afraid to love, because, even if it hurts, it changes things. It changes people. And, sometimes most importantly, it changes YOU. For the better.
Love is worth it. And it’s a choice. Choose to love.
Epilogue: Just four months later, my family brought home a new pet. Bentley. A little two-pound Morkie with a hundred-pound attitude who is a little like Biscuit and a lot a personality all his own. They say you never love the same way twice, and I guess that’s even true with pets! We chose to love another pet, and love him we do. No regrets.
It’s worth it. Love is always worth it.