Quiet quarantine contemplations
Genevieve Coleman | Wednesday, March 24, 2021
As I was writing this column, my mind kept drifting back to one of the most profound and highly contentious debates I have ever participated in through my more than 14 years of Catholic schooling: whether pets go to Heaven.
As a 19-year-old who considers herself somewhat educated, I can now comprehend the theological foundations of the argument that pets cannot be in Heaven.
But as a 7-year-old who had spent her entire childhood growing up without siblings and at least one dog, I simply could not wrap my head around the thought that I would never see my pets again after they died.
How could I continue to live my life knowing that the animals I loved would not be celebrated in the afterlife the same way I would be? How could I exist without these treasured friends?
Needless to say, in the instances where my theology teachers would try to engage in this conversation with their classes of elementary and middle-schoolers, they would be met with a lot of crying, protesting and eye-rolling. I took part in all three. At the end of these fraught discussions, my peers and teachers realized they had reached a decided impasse and both eventually moved on to prevent any more emotional outbursts from either party.
I didn’t have a reason to reflect on these parts of my religious education until my sweet 10-year-old dog passed away from cancer three days after Christmas.
It was a very difficult loss, especially nine months into COVID. Even though I know my grief cannot compare to the heartache that other families have experienced during this time, over the last several months, I felt like I had lost control over a lot of parts of my life. I was dealing with other health problems and, like most people I knew, I felt an inherent sense of loss and misdirection.
At first, words failed to describe what I was feeling. My friend of 10 wonderful years was gone, so I thought about where he would continue to exist. I thought back to the conversations I had with my religion teachers and the words of different popes about animal’s place in Heaven.
I thought about how to gain control of the narrative I felt was out of my hands, and I realized I couldn’t. I can’t get my dog back in the same way I had him, but as long as I continue to remember him as the goofy little boy he was during my life, I haven’t lost him forever.
This column is not my two cents about whether God meant for animals to be in Heaven, but rather a really self-conscious way of saying it’s OK to grieve what you’ve lost in this pandemic. It’s OK to question the things you thought were certainties, because nothing has been certain for the last year. It’s OK to feel tired of the circumstances you’ve been living in.
Just remember to love, so you don’t feel lost yourself.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.