Emotional sledding

Our cat died today; and the grief I felt when Kim and I took 21-year-old Checker to the vet to be euthanized brought up past moments of grief and also some of the feelings of grief (and fear, and . . . ) that many of us here and around the world are feeling in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Life seems to move slowly in the quiet of our subdued city even as news events move at an alarming speed. Getting things done feels more like a slog to me, at least so far.

Almost everyone has a new routine, and in the strangeness, I sense a collective grief — about those who have died or will die, about the daunting challenges faced by medical personnel and other front-line workers (grocery and pharmacy employees, police and paramedics, funeral directors, etc.); about the vulnerability of prisoners, the homeless, refugees, seniors living in assisted care, and those living in tight quarters like apartment towers; about the world we have lost.

One thing I have learned about grief is that “the only way out is through.” I find it better to acknowledge it when it visits, to feel it despite how painful it can be, and then see what might be on the other side of it.

I am grateful that Checker has found peace. As Kim put it, Checker has transitioned from being a great giver and receiver of love into being Love itself.

I am glad that I had almost five years to live with her. She was my first critter, although not my last. We still have Coco the dog, with whom we have lived for more than three years now.

Kim had 21 years with Checker. I was struck when I realized that Kim has lived longer with Checker than anyone else. Longer than me, of course. Longer than her ex. Longer than her parents. Longer even than her two children. Checker was a gift, and we give thanks for her presence all these years.

In the face of our fears of the progression of the pandemic and of the ways that various governmental and other leaders are responding, there is a collective search for actions we might take to help out.

I don’t have any answers today, but I am encouraged that so many people I admire are thinking, writing, and communicating about what might be next. And I am so grateful to the large armies of researchers and scientists seeking to understand the pandemic and how to deal with it.

I am also cheered by the response of the United Church of Canada to the pandemic. In the past, I have criticized church leaders for seeming to be in denial — about the rise of authoritarian and racist leaders, about climate disaster, and about the demographic decline of the denomination. But COVID-19 is different. Everyone in Northern Spirit Region and the General Council (the two levels of church governance above a community of faith like Mill Woods United) seem to be responding with speed, empathy, information, and support.

Yesterday at the second weekly Zoom meeting of ministers from Northern Spirit, one of the participants had a thought that I loved. He said that livestreaming worship services turned all of our homes into sanctuaries.

We are “sheltering in place,” and because we are doing so to slow down a medical emergency in the community, our homes are now holy ground.

I hope to “see” many of you on Sunday at 10:30 am via Facebook. Just open FB on your device and be sure to have “Liked” the Mill Woods United site.

Till tomorrow,


Checker and Kim getting ready to go to the vet this morning


  1. Laverne

    So sorry for the loss of your beloved Checker. “Critters” (as you put it) are family too.
    Thank you for your hopeful and reflective words.

  2. Linda Baker

    So sorry for the loss of your beloved pet. I know exactly how you feel. Two years ago I had to make the decision to put down by beloved Feather. She was a blue point Himalayan and was bonded to me. I loved her so much and was devastated by her death. She was 20 years old and I have such lovely memories of her. To some people they are just “cats” but to us, they are some of our people and we cherish them.

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