Burying the Squirrel
Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.” – Psalm 90:2–3 (NIV)
One afternoon, waiting in the driveway for my first grader’s school bus to arrive, I noticed a squashed squirrel in the road. Quickly, I ran behind the house to the shed, dug a shallow grave in the front yard, dropped the squirrel into the little hole, and covered it before the bus rounded the corner.
I kept death hidden in those days. In our short-lived aquarium phase, it was I who snuck into the living room every morning and noiselessly scooped into the toilet whoever had floated to the top overnight.
A decade later, my not-quite-grown child’s father Jeff lay dying and I could not shield them anymore. Had I done the right thing scooping all the death out of sight so many years ago? Would the little deaths have been preparation for the Big One?
Well. Here’s what I know. It was my child who turned off the gentle harp music I had selected for Jeff’s last night and turned up the prog rock they both preferred instead. Later, my child read the words from Jeff’s favorite book at the natural burial gravesite, and that same child, suddenly no longer a kid, shoveled dirt into the simple grave. In spite of all my careful vigilance, when death at last arrived, it was the child who knew just what to do.
You are God, and we are not. And yet, we want to control and contain all that we can. Let us come to rest, in life as in death, into your everlastingness. Amen.
Rev. Jennifer Garrison (formerly Brownell) is a writer, spiritual director and pastor living in the Pacific Northwest. Her published work most recently appeared in the book The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle, available from The Pilgrim Press.