By Jennifer Dyer
*I wrote this fiction story for my 2 y/o niece when her best fur-friend died from cancer. It’s not meant theologically sound or anything, but she was facing the loss of another family friend to cancer at the same time. It helped her understand and not be afraid for Reba or “NelNel”.
Today, I’d like to dedicate it to Kristen in memory of Shamu.
She was my first best friend.
From my earliest days, Reba would sit next to my crib and lay beside me on the floor. If anyone came near, Reba always gave them a good sniff before they could hold me. She rarely left my side.
When I learned to walk, I held onto her fur and tail for support, and she never liked me to go near the stairs. When I learned to eat, she sat under my high chair and helped me clean my plate so I could go play.
As I learned to swim, she was right there beside me in the pool, making sure I could make it to the other side.
But as I grew, she walked a little slower. Reba no longer jumped into the pool with me, but stayed by the side. She no longer ate my scraps from the table and could not follow me up the stairs. Then one day she did not get up at all.
“Mommy,” I called, sitting next to my best friend. “Something’s wrong with Reba.”
Mommy wouldn’t quite look at me, but tears dripped from her eyes. “Reba is waiting for Jesus.”
Mommy’s voice shook. “She is ready to move to Heaven with him.”
Move? “But I don’t want her to leave. She’s my best friend. Why does she have to go live with Jesus?”
“Because he misses her.”
“But she lives with us. I want her to live here!” I bawled, big fat tears streaming down my face like the pool’s waterfall.
Mommy wiped away my tears. “We will miss her, but Jesus has a wonderful new home for her in Heaven.”
I stomped up the stairs to get my suitcase. “Then I will go with her.”
I stood in my room and wondered what to pack for a trip to heaven. I jammed Dolly, a book, and four socks into my princess suitcase. I hauled it down the stairs and sat next to Reba. We waited all afternoon and Jesus did not come.
Remembering I always draw pictures for Grandma when she comes to visit, I decided to make a picture for Jesus. I colored a picture of Daddy, Mommy and me sitting in front of the house with Reba. “There,” I told Reba. “That way he can see how happy you are here.”
That night, I had to leave my picture and suitcase next to Reba to go to bed. Mommy prayed for Reba’s trip with Jesus. I told Jesus he was supposed to leave Reba here with me.
The next morning, Daddy woke me up. “Daddy, why are you crying?” I asked.
“Reba went to be with Jesus,” he answered.
“What?” I jumped out of bed and ran to the bottom of the steps. “I was going to go, too!”
Daddy came after me and hugged me as I bawled. “It was only Reba’s turn to go this time.”
It wasn’t fair! How could my best friend go anywhere without me?
Later, I couldn’t find Dolly and remembered leaving her in my suitcase by the fireplace where Reba always slept. I went to get it, refusing to step in Reba’s empty spot. When I got to my suitcase, my picture of Reba and our family was gone.
“Mommy! Where is my picture for Reba?”
Mommy jogged into the room. Her eyes were red from crying. “What picture?”
“The one I drew for Reba to give to Jesus. I left it right here.” My chin quivered and my throat got all tight like it does before I spew tears.
“I never saw it,” Mommy said. Daddy did not know about the picture either.
I heaved my suitcase up the stairs and yanked out Dolly. Maybe I lost the picture and that’s why Reba didn’t get to stay. A rolled up paper fell out, but it wasn’t my picture. It was a painting with bright colors and smiling people. In the middle, I saw a man in white smiling at my drawing. Nearby, Reba leaped into a clear blue lake, chasing a stick, a big doggy grin on her face. She hadn’t done that in years, according to Daddy.
I tucked the picture under my pillow and dried my tears. I’d miss her, but maybe it was OK she lived in Heaven now.