Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

For July 27, 2003


Somehow we must find a way to handle life’s suffering and sorrow


          As children our big concern was to have fun, to enjoy life. We loved playing games. We never worried about paying bills or the meaning of life.

            Reality, however, has a rude way of interrupting fun and games. So even as children we had to wrestle with trouble. Eventually trouble finds us all, and we have to find a way to handle it and move on. This is true for children as well as adults.

            My wife remembers a harsh, cold Christmas. Her daddy was dead. There was no money. Her mother said, without shedding a tear, “There will be no gifts this Christmas. We have food to eat. That is all there is.”

            Life was not fun and games for my wife that Christmas. She was only seven years old, but she had to find a way to face trouble and not allow it to ruin her life.

            Growing up on a farm, I learned that life is hard work. There was little time for fun and games. My father worked from sunup until sundown and he expected the same effort from his farm hands and his children. He tolerated nothing less.

            Dad did allow me to have a dog. He was a boxer and his name was Bull. For a few years that dog provided incredible meaning to my life. We were inseparable, though he was a yard dog. My parents never allowed dogs or cats inside the house.

            Bull earned his keep in a way. He learned how to help us drive cattle from one field to another. Cows paid attention to his barking. He could quickly turn a stray calf back to the herd.

            With Bull beside me, I had no fear when it was necessary to go searching in the woods for a tardy milk cow. Bull was my protection against whatever monsters might be lurking the shadows. An angry snake or a snarling bobcat would be no match for Bull.

            Life was good in those days. I had read a book about Lassie and the boy who loved him. Bull was not as handsome as Lassie, but he was my dog and I loved him.

            It never occurred to me that Bull might die. Then one day tragedy struck. James was cutting hay. Bull was playing in the field near the tractor, chasing a rabbit now and then, just enjoying life. Suddenly James came running up, panic stricken, with Bull lying helpless in the back of the truck. The mower blade had cut three of his legs off.

            Realizing how alarmed I was, my dad responded with unusual compassion. He must have known there was nothing the Vet could do for Bull.  Nonetheless he yielded to my plea to “take Bull to the doctor so he could sew his legs back on.” I had carefully wrapped the severed legs up in a rag, sure that the Veterinarian could “fix” Bull.

            I remember the Vet was a kind man. I could tell that he hurt with me. After examining Bull, however, he said sadly, “Son, there is no way for me to sew his legs back on. I am sorry but the only thing we can do is to put Bull to sleep.”

            There was no funeral. We left my beloved Bull with the Vet and we drove back home, mostly in silence. Dad seemed to understand my grief.

            That day I shall never forget. Life would never be the same. Trouble had come and I had to find a way to handle it and move on. It was hard to do, but somehow I found that even a child could find a way to embrace tragedy and not be defeated by it.

            What has stirred my memories of Bull’s death was the death this week of my grandson Jacob’s beloved dog, Rocky. Rocky, a boxer like Bull, had been in the family about 11 years. He and Jake were about the same age. They had grown up together.

            Jake and his younger brother, Joshua, truly enjoyed Rocky. Many other dogs had come and gone over the years, but Rocky remained, and he was the joy of Jake’s life.

            Rocky was killed by a hit and run driver, and left by the side of the road. To the driver I suppose Rocky was simply one more dead dog. To Jake and Josh, Rocky was so much more than a dog.

            He was a friend, a companion, an animal to be sure, but a source of unbelievable joy to two young boys, and their parents, Steve and Amy.

            Now Jake must grow up, as I did, and as others have done. He must find a way to handle tragedy and move on. He must not allow it to defeat him. Somehow, when we try, we can find a way to handle life’s suffering and sorrow.

            Someone has said, “One can see farther through a tear than through a telescope.” I believe that is true. My prayer for my grandsons is that as they grieve over Rocky’s death, they will be able to see through their tears the comforting Hand of One who also weeps when a boy loses his dog. + + + +