Friday, March 20, 2009

Harry, Me, and Graves for Our Friends

My dog died last Wednesday. He was going to be thirteen this month. I had had him since he was a puppy. He was there with me through so many moves I can barely count anymore, through a divorce, through highs and lows, goods and bads, all of it. His constant little presence was a source of reassurance to me so often- love, loyalty, and friendship without judgment. He was a Yorkie and his name was Rocco.

He was going to be my little California dog soon. He was going to take the long trip West with me- he would have seen the Grand Canyon, and maybe the Hoover Dam. My roommate, Claire, said that we had been through a lot of adventures together, and that he just wasn’t up for the next one. I think she was right. But mainly, I think the good Lord spared Rocco and me from many ends which would have been worse. If this had happened in California, I could not have buried him at my family’s house. I am thankful I was able to bury him at the house where I grew up- somewhere I should be able to go back to and where I can visit his grave in the foreseeable future. I am so thankful that I did not have to make the decision to have him put down. I just came home Wednesday night, and he was gone. He had been showing signs of age, but he seemed to feel fine for the most part, and it happened very suddenly. I am so thankful he did not suffer. And I am thankful I have my family still close to help me through this.

As I said, I buried him at my childhood home. My father was out of town, so my Uncle Donny helped me. I had been so exhausted, having not slept much for the couple of preceding nights, and did not think I was up for much physical labor. When I got to my dad’s house and met my uncle, though, I found myself WANTING to do the work. I knew I could not do it all myself, not properly. I wanted to bury him beside a small holly tree, and that meant having to contend with roots. I was not strong enough to break through those roots, but Donny was. Thankfully he was there to handle that.

The rest, though, I wanted to do, so Donny found two shovels, and I dug as much as I could. As I worked to break through maybe 2 ½-3 feet of dirt and red clay, I could not help but think of a scene from a book which moved me greatly when I read it, but which came back to me with a greater depth of significance when I thought of it as I helped dig Rocco’s grave. Does that sound strange? I was certainly dealing with the harsh reality of the situation, but even while living in that, my mind went to this fictional scenario in which one of my friends- a fictional friend- dug a grave for someone dear to him.


DISCLAIMER: I understand the Potter series is a controversial one among Christians. I know wonderful people on both sides of the issue, and am not writing this post to start a debate over whether or not Believers should read fairy tales with wizards and witches as protagonists.

Now that is said, the two of you who are still reading this will hopefully understand some of the connections I want to make. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the last book in the series, Harry has to bury one of his friends. This is not the first friend, nor is it the last, he loses in the fight against Voldemort. But this is the only one that Harry, himself, buries. It is Dobby, the house elf, who gave his life to save Harry and others.

Since the second book, Dobby had become a loyal helper and friend to Harry. He was small, and he was greatly abused by the Malfoys, his former owners. In the Chamber of Secrets, Harry secured Dobby’s freedom from the Malfoys, which also meant his freedom from abuse and a life of misery. But even before that act, Dobby was loyal to Harry. He stood by him throughout the series, though not always at the forefront. You just knew that somewhere, Dobby the house elf was nearby, and would show up at some point when Harry needed him the most.

Unlike the funeral of Albus Dumbledore, a grand, standing-room-only affair held on the grounds of Hogwarts at the end of the Half-Blood Prince, Dobby’s funeral is held by Harry and a small band of fugitives in hiding. Harry and his best friends, Ron and Hermione, are on the run from the tyranny of the evil they are fighting, the same evil that just killed Dobby, and must bury their small friend at the safe house where they are taking refuge. Harry wants to dig the grave for Dobby himself. He refuses to use magic to do it, but wants to honor his friend by expending his own energy and sweat in a labor of love.

At this crucial point in the story, Harry has been struggling with a choice- does he proceed upon a path of faith, or upon a path of fear? It is through his efforts to secure Dobby’s laying to rest that he is finally able to see clearly, and make the choice of faith.

He took responsibility for his friend. There was no one else to do it. Dumbledore had many friends. Dobby had only Harry. And in the end it was his love for Dobby, and his efforts on his behalf, which helped lead Harry to choices which, when all was said and done, conquered the evil which threatened the world. Life from death. Salvation from sacrifice. Remind you of anything?

Finally, I wonder what is it we can see in fictional scenes that we cannot see when we are going through similar events in our own lives? One answer is beauty. There is a beauty in such poignant scenes which we cannot see or feel when we are facing the real sadness of loss. In this case, does fiction become more truthful than what we call reality? I tend to think so. In such times, we may be blinded by too much reality, and cannot see the objective Truth fiction can show us at times, the Truth revealed by our involvement in a scenario which is close enough to affect us to almost Otherworldly yearning, but which is distant enough to not BE us. Digging a grave for my dog is not going to save the world, I know, but through Harry’s and Dobby’s experience, I was able to appreciate a beauty in my last moments with Rocco that I would not otherwise have known.

Thank God for fiction!

And thank God for Rocco! He was a truly wonderful friend.


  1. OK- so apparently I have not mastered the art of spacing between paragraphs! This one should be labelled "Eternity" because of the time it takes to get from one to the next.

  2. This is so beautiful (even if the spacing is off)! You are right on target, I think, and you said it so much better than I would have been able to. The Bible says "God works all things together for good" for those who love him, but I don't think we can see that very often when we're enduring the stresses and ugliness of "all things." Fiction can help us put those things in perspective--if it's good fiction.

  3. I feel exactly the same way. I know neither one of you follow Karen Kingsbury but her books always help me see that.....and I am so sad that Harry Potter is finished (one the movies are done it will be an end to an era)

  4. I'm so sorry about Rocco, Kristi. I know it's really sad to lose a dog. Sending you HUGS!