I’m learning this new life; a life without Zoe.

The smallest things lurch my heart.

When arising, we had a ritual of greeting.  We’d have a conversation about whether the night on the couch was to her liking (I know, dogs on furniture are anathema to some but she was old and creaky and I could deny her nothing in the comfort department).  She would gaze into my eyes as I appreciated the silk of her ears.  Her fine dog smell graced me before I moved to the second grace smell of morning:  coffee!

Scraps of food in this house are no more cause for canine celebration.  We throw them away without being able to hail the dog with great good news of treats.

There is no click of nails on the floor or jingle of collar or nudge of nose when a petting is due.

There is no welcome when we come home and no barking salvo when anyone nears the fiercely and loudly protected domain of her house.

The space left behind is immense.

I’m left pondering the mystery of dog companionship.  For fourteen years she raised children, comforted the lonely and found her pleasures in bread and fishing.  She asked for little.  In return for food and loving she gave and gave and gave.

I’m missing that giving.  I breathe my thanks for her being.  I apprehend the vast space she has left behind.

I’m humbled by the power of grief and gratitude, both.




Today we celebrated the life of a woman who lived 101 years.

Gathered for worship were her children and grandchildren and friends and folk who knew themselves to have spent time and life with a graceful powerhouse.

We do that at church.  We hold the space for celebrations and life markings.  We welcome  people we may never see again and for a time we share voices in song and stories through hearts.

There are times when the beleaguer of “doing church” can make the heart heavy.  The tending of relationships and buildings and protocols and brusings can near obscure the reason for our being.

And then there are services that remind us that community in Christ matters.  It matters deeply.

For 101 years the woman we celebrated today held space in her being for the power of God in her life.  The fruit of her faith was palpable in her people and in the air and prayer we shared.

I’m grateful.  I’m grateful for the steadfast devotion that has prompted people to support a church that has held funerals for nearly 160 years.  I’m grateful for the privilege of weaving worship that names resurrection and wonder.  I’m grateful for the hands that bake bars and pour coffee.

I’m grateful for the reminder that “doing church” matters.  It matters a lot.

Zoe Mackenzie Macaulay Wiggen Olm

We first met Zoe when she was one of eight puppies living under a trailer outside of Duuth.

We had just gone to look (yeah, right).  We had been without a dog for all of two weeks.  Our house didn’t feel like home without a dog.  So off we went.

How we decided on Zoe is family legend.  Rachel chose her and after trying to mind-meld with the wiggly black puppy with white socks around compatibility, we agreed that she would join our family.

Cute is a small word.  Zoe was that and she was also immensely spirited when it came to shredding furniture and most anything else her imagination decided it wanted to engage.

She almost didn’t last.  There were deals made over and over again until she reached that lovely age of three or so when it seemed she grew a conscience and some sense of self-preservation.

She grew to be a dog steadfast of heart.  Always Zoe greeted us with enthusiasm.  Always she had time to commune with the brokenhearted.  Always she responded to the rustle of bread bags and pizza delivery persons.

She was a devoted fisherwoman.  She spent hours at the cabin walking two feet or so out in the water.  Her tail broadcast her joy and her sure conviction that those fish were hers to manage.

For fourteen years, Zoe has been heart touchstone for our family.

We have watched in the past year as she has struggled with aging.  We knew that she would let us know when it was time to say goodbye.

Yesterday she couldn’t much walk without falling.

It was time.

Today was gentle goodness.  We had the day off so there were many opportunities to snuggle up next to her and smell the good of her.  Her beloved children came home for quiet loving.  She let us lift her and carry her to the car.

At the vet, as preparations were made, she laid in our laps and seemed to be ministering to us through the ways she lived trust and love until she breathed no more.

Oh, to have shared life and heart with the best dog in the world.  The house echoes lament; my heart grieves for the wanting of her.

But the dog who companioned us all through so many shifts and changes and comings and goings is free.

It was time.