Dearest Rachel –
Occasionally, I will spot something or other left behind by Chompers that I have yet to give away. Kris took a number of things to give to her daughter (I think it was; it’s been well over a week since she was last by) to use with her own dog, but his bowls are still languishing in the dish tray after she washed them. Which is fine; the only use I’ve had for that dish tray, the only things I’ve been washing by hand in the kitchen, had been his used Beneful containers that you (and later I) had been using for storing his pre-made meals.
They’ve all since been thrown into the recycling bin.
But I find myself thinking about you, being reunited with him, on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. Knowing you, you’d be likely to be surrounded by all the generations of your childhood dogs – Crispin (who’d probably just as soon hang around with you as your mom or dad, assuming you have the same energy level you did in life in comparison), Canny and Rufus – not to mention Sir Silk, who quite honestly loved you in a way he never shared with your parents. Given Chompers’ ah, combative nature toward other dogs, I wonder how he’d be dealing with the pack that surrounds you.
To be sure, that was apparently not always in his nature. Before we took him in, he had been more than happy to hang out with other dogs, and was generally a fairly friendly one himself. But at some point approximately a year before he came to us, he was attacked by a Rottweiler, and got very much the worst of the scrap. I can’t recall how badly injured he was – from what I can recall, he may have come close to dying, but I’m not sure, and you’re not here to correct me – but his psyche was irretrievably scarred by that incident. For nearly all the time we new him, he took offence at any other dog crossing his path, and the bigger the dog, the more he would bark.
It was probably a case of trying to insist “I’m not afraid of you, dammit!” to every dog he considered a threat (which was virtually all of them, although he did tend to ignore dogs half his size and less). And while we had to pull him off the sidewalk and away from other people and their dogs when we encountered them – all while sheepishly acknowledging that “he doesn’t get along well with other dogs” as we did – the other dogs generally tended to react with either indifference or a sort of mild “geez, what’s your problem,” curiosity.
But that was the Chompers we knew. Assuming he’s with you on the other side, where “no good thing is destroyed,” as dear old Jack Lewis put it in The Last Battle, would he still have that cantankerous attitude toward those other dogs who surround you? And if he didn’t, would he still be the Chompers we knew?
It’s something I wonder about, when I think about the place you’ve gone to. You must look different than I think of you looking, for starters. You’re probably back to being the child of five or seven you always wished to stay as, although, when I arrive, will you greet me as the college-aged girl I met for my sake?
My conjecture (and bear in mind, I have absolutely no scriptural basis for it; it’s just my thoughts on the matter) is that we will all appear to others the way they remember us best. So you probably will look to me like the grown-up girl I married, while all your childhood friends would see you as the child I dare say you perceive yourself to be. Meanwhile, the Zigler girls would someday see you as the gentle purple-clad and -haired lady who rocked them to sleep as babies and taught them their first scripture verses.
But – and here’s where things get murky – we all would remember you as wearing glasses. But, of course, that’s a flaw. We won’t have flaws in heaven, now, will we? You’re glorified body will be in perfect condition, with perfect vision; you don’t need glasses up there. But that’s how all of us remember you. So… will we see you with glasses, or not? Or will we recognize you regardless?
We are – or in your case, were – human, with all those attendant flaws. Not just those external, superficial ones, like poor eyesight or being overweight. No, there’s the whole issue of our sinful natures that permeate our personality to the point where without them, would we even be recognizable? I get that it all gets burned away, as God’s holiness does not permit imperfection in His presence, but how much will be carved from our selves, and what will even be left of us at that point?
It was barely a few days after the accident when our pastor came by the folks’ house while I was working there. Among other things, he was gathering information regarding your funeral service (although we were to meet with him later to go into more details – look, everyone at church knew you, but it wasn’t as if everyone was aware of your biography). Somewhere along the line, I mentioned several specific things I missed about you already – I’m sure you can guess some of the specifics, as our last Saturday together had been lacking in… certain things. He mentioned that you had posed him a question after the service (like you did more often than not of a Sunday morning) asking him why heaven, too, lacked certain connections, like that of husband and wife. After all, it was the closest relationship we have on earth – why would that no longer be a thing in eternity?
And indeed, it’s a fair question. Everyone is the product of such a relationship; everyone is supposed to have a mother and father. Even the vast majority of biblical characters are described as the son of someone or other. And I get that there is no creation of additional souls in heaven, so there is no need for the process anymore. But the relationships… are just dismissed as though they were nothing?
The Doctor once described man (and by extension, Time Lords even more so) as “the sum of his memories,” and the ones I’ve had with you were some of my best. To have them stripped away on earth is bad enough; the idea that, even though we might be reunited, we won’t have that same connection anymore, seems… well, not unfair, but less than ideal. They sustained me through some of my worst days, and made me a better man than I might have been on my own, and isn’t the point of heaven to present us in our best selves, in perfection? You had a hand in my walk toward that point (and, I would hope, I had a hand in your path to perfection as well), and while we never came remotely close to it here, could we not be allowed that refining relationship in the hereafter?
It’s a question, I suppose, that will never be answered until that time. And while you may know it now, you’re unable to let me know what to expect. I do wish it were otherwise.