FAITHFUL LIVING: Reflect on the Heavenly Father

This week our much loved ferret, the family clown, died. It was a quiet and sad process and we have mourned the fact that she will no longer dive into our blankets, lick our faces, and stash away household items she determined were too interesting to be left out in the open. We loved her tiny round ears and the way she would stick her head out of her sleeping bag hammock when we called her name. We never stopped laughing over her backwards scoot and that “get crazy” mode she would go into after a long nap had provided her with energy to spare.

It is moments like this one when pet ownership is the hardest. There are countless joys, certainly. And there are those inevitable goodbyes.

The experience reminded me of Father’s Day, 1999, when we woke up to discover it was not only a Sunday to celebrate fatherhood but also Delivery Day! There was a miracle taking place smack dab in the middle of our laundry room. Dale the guinea pig (wife to Chip) and who had grown to massive proportions in recent weeks, was delivering her brood of young ones.

As can be expected from a guinea pig (an animal, by the way, which also makes a wonderful pet) Dale was fulfilling her biological task with grace and silence. And while she had previously delivered her broods under the cloak of night, this time she swung into her act during primetime, allowing our three children the opportunity to watch in fascination as she delivered not one, two, three, four, or five offspring, but six fully formed, completely haired babies who resembled their parents in every way.

But things seemed slightly amiss from the beginning.

“I think she’s having too many!” Katie commented as baby after lethargic baby appeared on the bed of warmed bedding. I detected some tears welling up in Katie’s concerned, youthful eyes. I felt a little sick and sat back in worry.

But not Dad. He jumped right into the delivery den and after gently picking up each little body, would pull the bag of waters off their tiny noses and gently rub them. Turning and rubbing. Turning and rubbing. Five times life surged, right there before our eyes.

The sixth and largest of the babies remained still, however.

“What can we do? We don’t want this one to die!” the kids anguished.

Following some minutes of massaging, Dad finally raised a tiny, pure mouth to his own and gently blew. One puff, two puffs, then a third. But there was no saving to occur that day.

And while it could have been a very sad Father’s Day, the kids’attention seemed captured not by this failure to revive the little animal, but by the great lengths their dad was willing to go to sustain life.

Yes, you guessed it. There were some initial remarks about their dad’s choice to place his mouth on the baby guinea pig. But when we assured the kids that there was no danger connected with these attempts at resuscitation, the experience took on enormous meaning. My husband’s response spoke powerfully yet quietly to the value of life — no matter what kind of life it may be. No matter the odds or the circumstances.

“Dad sure cares about us,” our young son commented to me the next day as we talked about the newborn guinea pig that did not make it. At first I did not understand Daniel’s conclusion until I realized all over again that kids translate and apply the events of their lives to greater big picture understandings. We may have lost a guinea pig, but Matt found a way to speak of love and commitment in a very surprising, spontaneous way.

Fatherhood not only has practical but spiritual implications as well. Dads are continually given opportunities to reflect a Heavenly Father’s love that is represented in the Bible as far reaching, tireless, and strong. Such an approach to fathering sustains dads when the job feels thankless and difficult, as well as when mistakes have been made. It also adds a degree of nobility, giving depth and meaning to the routines of fathering.

What are modern fathers doing with their children? They are snuggling kids afraid of the dark, praying their way through each day, and changing work schedules to attend school functions. They are coaching and teaching and volunteering when their children can directly see them at work. They are setting strong boundaries even when they anticipate anger and frustration and confrontation. They are striving to create happy homes where kids gain confidence and strength from observing committed relationships and honorable living.

Tomorrow is Father’s Day 2004. Thank God for the dads among us!

Freelance writer Joan Bay Klope’s e-mail address is

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