If you have read my writings or heard my sermons over any length of time, you are familiar with our basset hound, Dorothy. Through the years, she and her antics have provided me with a rich resource of memorable illustrations of certain truths.
Some of you have shared with me how you enjoy and remember various "Dorothy stories." Unfortunately, I have to report the sad news that our beloved pet recently passed away.
Dorothy was quite old for her breed of dog. Over the past months, her health had deteriorated significantly. She had become unable to eat very much, including the treats that she used to love so much that she had been willing to "shake hands" or twirl around in order to receive one.
She eventually became too feeble to take her usual walks through the neighborhood where her sensitive nose would excitedly busy itself sniffing out the latest trails of other creatures that had passed that way.
Old age and poor health had robbed Dorothy of most of her passion for life. That became obvious in her final days when she hardly glanced at a nearby rabbit in the yard and when she failed to get stirred up by a rumble of thunder.
The look in her eyes made it clear that she was tired of living and was ready to go.
I've seen a similar look in the eyes of some elderly people I've known, or have heard them express those sentiments verbally. If we live long enough to experience our bodies wearing out, life tends to lose much of its attraction.
The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes refers to that stage of life as "the difficult days" and uses some rather creative word pictures to describe a person's physical deterioration (12:1-5).
Poor eyesight is represented by the sun and moon being darkened. "Strong men bowing down" may refer to the legs and knees giving out. "Music being brought low" seems to describe the failing sense of hearing. "Grinders ceasing" is probably symbolic of our teeth not allowing us to chew our food as well as in past years.
There are also references to the fear of heights or how one has to be careful not to fall. That passage ends with the summary statement that "desire fails."
Many elderly people can relate to that condition. Their declining health, along with the fact that the names of many of their friends and acquaintances are frequently showing up in the obituaries, also causes them to be less active socially.
All of this combined with a lack of mobility and forfeiture of independence often results in a profound sense of loss.
In a way, I believe God uses all those factors to prepare us for leaving this life. Earthly things just don't hold the attraction that they once did. They lose their luster and heaven looks better and better as each day goes by for those who are trusting Jesus and are spiritually prepared.
We tire of the pain, discomfort and loneliness, finding it harder and harder to put forth the effort required to keep living. We're ready to go.
However it's important to remember that our lives are in God's hands. As long as He gives us breath, there's still a purpose in our being here. We still have things to do and other lives to touch.
So even when our bodies ache and our passions wane, we need to hang in here seeking to fulfill God's will for us until He decides that it's time to call us home.
And when my time comes to go, I think it would make that home even a little brighter if I were to find a certain hound there to greet me.
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Rockdale Evangelical Methodist Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.