Life is very strange at times. We lose, but then we gain, but there’s one constant that always stays the same, and that’s the memories we retain.
One Christmas when I was about 10 in 1950, my grandmother gave me a small black-and-white border collie puppy that we named Pal.
One Christmas, Pal ran away and got lost. I prayed and prayed every day for his return. On Christmas Eve, I placed a toy in his doghouse. Then on Christmas morning, I walked to his doghouse and no Pal. I began to feel that neither Santa nor God had heard my prayer.
As I walked back to the house, I heard a faint noise, and coming up the road was Pal limping and trying to run in the snow. I ran to him and he jump into my arms. That was my first of several of Christmas miracles, and God did hear a small boy’s prayer.
Some 55 years later, I obtained another dog from a shelter that was a 1-year-old chocolate Labrador. Because of his color, I named him Coffee. We grew as close together over the next 14 years as I was to Pal.
Coffee was my constant companion. One spring night at our house in Bristol, a thunderstorm came, and I ran out to get Coffee, for he was afraid of storms. He was gone, but I thought he would find shelter and be back in the morning. But Coffee was now nearly 14 years old and had a heart problem.
About 7 a.m., I received a call from the Jones Animal Hospital telling me that a Bristol policeman had found Coffee lying by the road and brought him to the clinic. I immediately went to the hospital and met Dr. Allen.
Coffee was almost unconscious lying in the cage. Dr. Allen said let’s see how he does in the next 24 hours, for it looked like his heart could not take the stress.
When I returned the next afternoon, Coffee barely raised his head when he heard me. Dr. Allen said that the best thing to do was to put him to sleep.
Two weeks later, I picked up his ashes, and Loretta and I carried his ashes up the mountain in North Carolina where Coffee and I always hiked, and we buried them. The next day, I placed a rock on his grave. Then I got the idea that every time that I walked by, I would add another rock. Now Coffee has a monument.
A few days later, I stopped at the Valero Convenience Station in Hansonville, Virginia, where Coffee and I always stopped to either get gasoline or a cup of coffee and parked at the same spot.
Always, Coffee would get out with me on his leash, and I would take him over to the only tree stump near where we parked, and he cocked his leg to do his business.
I went inside to get a cup of coffee and returned to my SUV and sat there thinking about Coffee.
At that time, this van drove up and parked beside me. This little girl got out and took this young chocolate Lab on a leash and over to the same stump that Coffee used. This dog cocked his leg, and as she led him back to the van, the dog stopped and looked directly at me in my SUV as if to say, “Hi, Master, I have another spirit but just wanted you to know that I am OK.”
The little girl tugged at him, but he would not move, and I had time to get my phone camera and took this photo. I felt then, as I do now, that this was no coincidence. To a believer and a scientist like myself, I say not a chance of such a coincidence ever happening, without God’s purpose. Also, I say that there is an existing spiritual world that we do not understand about either life or death. That is the Christian faith coming out in me, for I believe God has his hand on our direction and destiny and reveals that unknown spirit to us once in a great while, if we will only listen. For it does make me believe that God is always with us, which is the true meaning of “Emmanuel” and particularly here at this Easter season.