Ashes and Memories


It was a week ago yesterday. Three sticky notes left on our front door from the UPS man. Three attempts to deliver Max’s ashes to us while we were gone. Julia and I drove to the UPS delivery center and the nice gentleman took our post its and returned with a box. Julia asked if she could carry it to the car. “Mom, I can finally pick Max up.” Max and Julia weighed the same just two weeks before.

We returned home and Darrin led our family in a little memorial service for Max in the backyard. Max loved our big backyard. He knew every inch of it. But his favorite place was anywhere we were.

The box included a paw print of Max and a bag of flower seeds. We haven’t decided where we will plant the flowers, but we will use that compost we’ve cultivated when it comes time.

We brought out Max’s black collar and passed it around. I remember the day we had his tag made. It was the day we decided to keep Max after our trial week.  That day he became Max Mabuni. We bought him a new collar and a matching leash. Julia and I spent a long time at the pet store trying to figure out which tag we wanted and which collar looked most Max-like. Clipping it around his neck marked the moment he belonged to us. Two weeks later we signed the official papers from the rescue center, but in our heart he was already ours.

Darrin opened up his black Bible and read from a Psalm and read from Ecclesiastes. We took turns sharing memories of Max. The funny ones, the meaningful ones. Then we opened the bag of Max’s ashes and took turns scattering them in places where we remember Max especially liking. We ended the time enjoying some ham–Max’s favorite treat. Darrin prayed and thanked God for the gift Max was to our family. He thanked God for all of our memories with Max.

And that night heaven joined us in our tears again and it rained. It rained hard. The rain came from no where and it hasn’t rained since.

Over and over I play in my head what happened. The  wonderful family that watched him had given him multiple walks, lots of love and attention. He was alone in the house for only 50 minutes. When the garage door opened, he bolted out of the door that led into the garage and ran as fast as his legs could take him. Somehow he figured out how to get home almost two miles away. He was smart. He was loyal. He wanted home. He wanted us. It was rush hour. Eight lanes of fast cars. We are not sure where he was hit. The vet told us that none of his bones broke. How does an impact that caused such severe bruising in his lungs and heart not also crush bones? When the boys saw him, aside from his bloody lip, he looked fine. So many “what if’s”, so many “if only’s.” We are left with our questions and no answers. We are left with an ache so deep. Jonathan told me that night, “I have never walked through the emotions like these that have come up from losing Max.”

I spent the next four days sick in bed with massive head cold/sinus infection. Being back in that bed staring at the ceiling still takes me back to the long days of cancer treatment. The kids were at church participating in our weeklong Kids Fun Club. Darrin was away debriefing the international summer missions teams. I slept for hours on end, but when I was awake I had plenty of time and space to miss Max and grieve.

All of this reminds me again of how God created us to live in community. Thank you for crying with us, for praying for us, for emails, texts, Facebook and Twitter messages, cards and gifts and hugs. Our loss has become your loss, too. My heart is grateful that we don’t bear our grief alone. So many of you walked with us through battling cancer and understand the significance Max was to our family in light of our journey.

Julia and I prayed today. We realize that we probably would not have picked Max if we saw him in a shelter because he was initially so jumpy, timid and frightened. We know that his previous owner had prayed for Max to find a home. We weren’t even looking and our paths crossed. Max was clearly an out-of-the-blue gift to our family from God. Perfect for our family. We asked God today that when it’s time, He would bring us another dog that needs a home like ours. Someone in a situation where they are praying for a family to adopt their dog. We asked God to bring another dog as a double answer to prayer. We want to open our hearts again to love a pet deeply. Would you join us in praying the same?

Vivian Mabuni