When my oldest daughter, Laura, was two, my wife and I decided to get her a kitten for her birthday. Well, she loved that kitty and promptly named him “Bubbles.” Both cat and kid were attached at the hip and played all day, every day. She didn’t always know how to handle the kitty, such as those times when she would pick Bubbles up with her pudgy little fingers wrapped around its neck. Poor cat! He’d dutifully dangle in mid-air, seeming to realize that this small person had no intention of hurting him.
Unfortunately, after about six months, Bubbles contracted a urinary tract infection which required that I take him to the veterinarian. The cat’s system had gone into shock. The vet called informing me that, though they thought the cat had made a turn for the better, it still slipped from us and died. I thanked him and hung up the phone. I sat in my office at church wondering how I was going to tell Laura that Bubbles was dead. “Lord, what am I going to tell my two-and-a-half year old?” No answer seemed to be immediately forthcoming. I worked the rest of the afternoon and then headed home.
Dinner was ready shortly after I walked in the door, so we called Laura from her bedroom where she had been playing. As she came bouncing into the kitchen, the Lord gave me the words to say to her. “Laura, guess what?” She looked at me expectantly with upturned face. I said, “Bubbles is at Jesus’ house!” She cocked her head to the side and replied, “Bubbles not come my house?” “No, baby,” I said. Then with a cheerful face, she said, “Bubbles go Jesus’ house?” “Yes,” I assured her. “Okay!” she said. And that was the end of the matter.
I’ve shared this story any number of times over the years, but just this past week I had one of those déjà vu moments. On Monday morning I received a text message from my youngest daughter, Jenny. She was sad because their cat, Snowy, was diagnosed with liver failure and needed to be put down. I texted her back asking if Brookie (her two-year-old) knew about this. Jenny said Brookie only knew that Snowy was sick and at the animal hospital. Since her daughter hadn’t said anything about the cat for a few days, Jenny hoped she’d forgotten about it. She concluded with this line, “I don’t want to scare her with the ‘death talk’ yet.” This caught my attention.
I responded by saying that Brookie may not be afraid of that as much as Jenny was in trying to explain it. I then recounted the story of her sister and Bubbles. Jenny was still in the womb when we lost Bubbles. She wrote back that she thought the story about Bubbles was adorable. With this reply, I realized she must not have ever heard the story! Not sure how she escaped that because as I said, I’d told this story numerous times over the years. Anyway, she liked it. Then she said, “I hope they do go to Jesus’ house!”
Well, I was at work and didn’t have an opportunity to reply to her last comment for a while. About forty minutes later I received another text from Jenny. She said that a funny thing had just happened. Brookie walked into the room and announced that Snowy was sick. Jenny then told her that Snowy was going to Jesus’ house. Brookie’s response was, “Okay!” Jenny was delightfully surprised, especially since she hadn’t said anything to Brookie about our discussion.
I wrote back to Jenny and told her that there isn’t much in the Bible about animals going to or being in heaven, but there is enough said that I believe we’ll see lots of them there. The Lord lovingly made them as well, so they are important. And the Lord will do what is right. I was interested in discovering that there are more than 3000 verses in the Bible that mention animals, both wild and domestic.
Later that day, I was telling Laura about Brookie and her cat going to Jesus’ house. Laura then informed me that several months prior, when her aging cat took sick and died, that she told her two-year-old daughter, Alyssa, that Fatty had gone to Jesus’ house. Alyssa’s reply? “Okay!”
And it is okay. Anything having to do with Jesus, wherever that might be, is okay! In John 14 Jesus said, "Don't let this throw you. You trust God, don't you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father's home. If that weren't so, would I have told you that I'm on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I'm on my way to get your room ready, I'll come back and get you so you can live where I live."
I sure like the sounds of that – and there might even be a few dogs and cats thrown in!