My Dear Friends,
Jessie R. I. P.
Jessie, a three-legged Alsatian, joined the Cuttell family nine years ago just six weeks before we moved to the Rectory. She came from the dogs home and, if truth be known, off the metaphorical scrap heap. A background of neglect had left her grossly underweight, and the cruelty and abuse she suffered had left not only profound physical scarring but deep psychological scars also. However, in subsequent months and years she enjoyed a transformation as startling and wonderful as any caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly.
I have to tell you that Jessie passed away last week at the ripe old age of (we think) thirteen. She will be mourned not only in our own household but by a generation of local schoolchildren who were generous enough to forgive the Rector his boring assemblies so long as he brought his dog. She accompanied the shepherds in our nativities and occasionally made pastoral visits which I suspect brought a comfort and joy far greater than any ministered by the minor cleric who accompanied her.
Jessie’s story gave us all hope: that what was broken could be healed, what has been stolen replaced by that which is better, that life’s lowest lows could eventually become a memory so distant that they could barely be recalled. The physical effects of her past were carried in her body to her last day on this earth, but her personality had been made completely and beautifully whole many years previously.
I wonder if these words are familiar to you?
‘Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made . . .’ They begin the Collect for Ash Wednesday from the Book of Common Prayer, oft repeated through the season of Lent, and alive in the memories of many in an older generation who learnt this prayer by heart. The roots of the prayer lie in a text known as The Wisdom of Solomon, from the Apocrypha of the Bible: ‘For Thou lovest all things that exist and hast loathing for none of the things which Thou hast made’1.
In the Christian year, Lent will soon give way to Easter, the embodiment of all that is most profound in the Christian hope. The Apostle John recorded how, when the risen Christ stood amongst his astonished disciples, the wounds of crucifixion were still apparent upon his body.2 Indeed, it was by those visible and tangible wounds that Jesus proved to a doubting Thomas that he was the Jesus he knew and loved and had shared a life with.
Please do not despise your own past, nor even your own failures. Perfect healing does not make these things of non-existence, merely things of non-importance, an irrelevance in the midst of a wholly transformed present. In heaven, I suspect Jessie may still have three legs, and the cleric at her side will be just as ugly as he was upon this earth. But in truth, none of that will matter anymore
P.S. - If anyone knows of a three-legged Alsatian looking for a good home . . .
1 Wisdom 11, 24
2 John 20, 27
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