Magdi is now eleven years old. She was the first dog we ever had that would not only chase a ball and bring it back, but catch it in the air like a fly ball, or chase a ball on the bounce, leaping four feet into the air to catch it. If you said, “Bring me a ball,” she ran to the nearest one, picked it up, and brought it to you. If you said, “Give it to me,” she would drop it on the ground next to your feet or place it in your hands if you bent over. It was almost as if she really understood English.
She also loved to play “soccer,” chasing a soccer ball around the field, then guarding it when one of us ran up as if to take it away, and take off again after she caught her breath, even balancing it on her shoulders or head or nose as she ran. She had a large exercise ball, nearly a foot higher than her shoulders, that she would treat the same way. Once in awhile, it rolled so fast that as she tried to jump up to grab it, it threw her over the top. She would simply get up and go again.
Her bones and joints have steadily betrayed her this last year. She drags one hind foot occasionally because it hurts too much to pick it up. Her knees are swollen and stiff and some days she doesn’t even try to get up when we go outside; she simply looks up and gives one floppy tail wag—thump, glad to see you, boss. She has stopped racing to the gate to greet us when we come home, but if we have been away awhile, she will slowly walk until she gets there. I always feel so bad when we get the gate closed and start down the drive before she makes it. She has to turn and retrace those several hundred steps, but if we stand and wait at the door, she will eventually make it for a pat on the head and the words she wants most to hear, “Good dog.”
Pick up a ball, though, and her ears stand up even if she does not. If you bounce it, she will rise to her feet, though a bit unsteadily, and stand poised ready to run. We have learned to merely toss it now, rather than throwing it as hard and far as we can, and she hobbles after it, all thought of pain and age and weariness abandoned.
The other day Keith blew off the roof, leaving piles of leaves around the house, and wads of moss clinging in the topmost branches of the azaleas. I spent the next morning trying to “rake” it down to the ground. Magdi thought I had something--something that might be interesting, like a snake or a lizard--and she was up instantly, running from bush to bush, even standing precariously on her aching hind legs, trying to help me get whatever it was I didn’t want in those bushes. She has “taken care of” many snakes and lizards over the years, as well as moles, tortoises, armadillos, and possums. It’s her job, and since all these surgeries started, she has taken her duty as my protector much more seriously. Despite her creaking joints she was ready to work and if necessary, rescue me from whatever monster lurked in the azaleas.
I have been reading through the Old Testament laws concerning the elderly lately for some classes I have been teaching. What has become most apparent is how carefully God made arrangements for those and other equally helpless people like orphans and strangers, to be taken care of. Did you know that the penalty for oppressing a widow or orphan was death (Ex 22:22-24)? Did you know that sin is listed in the same category as adultery and witchcraft (Mal 3:5)? Truly we need to take this more to heart than we usually do.
But I also noticed God’s expectations for those same people themselves. The older men and women are to train the younger (Titus 2). In times of struggle they should be fonts of wisdom, not buckets of bitter resentments and regrets. In the midst of fiery disputes they should be sources of temperance and cooling thoughts not fanners of the flame.
As to the widows indeed, widows with no family who had met certain qualifications and were still able-bodied, they were to pledge themselves to work for the church in return for monetary support. All those women were over sixty mind you, yet God said if they could still work for Him, they should, (1 Tim 5:9-12).
What about Anna? She stayed at the temple, prophesying every day. She might possibly have been one of those women who worked there (Ex 38:8), even though she was over eighty.
Simeon, who was also elderly, was still actively searching for the Messiah when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple that first time. The Spirit sent him that special day not only to see the answer to his many prayers, but to testify to the identity of the young babe.
People of God work for God and serve Him as long as they possibly can. Working for God takes one’s mind off himself, off her own problems and pains. As long as I can, I should do what I can, perhaps adapting to new circumstances, but never sitting back and saying, “Well that’s it, I’m done.” I have known mortally ill Christians who were still talking with people who needed help, still holding the hands of those who came to visit and cheering them up instead, while only days from death.
I know an old dog who still loves to play, who still wants more than anything to please her masters. I think she will probably die with a ball in her mouth, trying to bring it back for one last throw. I hope I never drop the ball for the Lord.
The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of Jehovah; they shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and green to show that Jehovah is upright; He is my rock and there is no unrighteousness in Him, Psalm 92:12-15.