We are gathered here together to bid our fondest farewell to Francesca Josephine Baggett. Those who entered her orbit, well, were taking their chances; they were likely to get slapped and/or bitten. She was sweet and sour, nearly all sass and color; she was a fighty, she was a mighty, and she was a bitey. Sometimes she would get mad and I would say, “Are you Rachel Maddow? Are you a mad cow?” And she refused to dignify the questions with an answer. She was a good Franno, which isn’t the same as good—just as a big ant isn’t necessarily big. And the world is a little less interesting without her. And yet: “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21b)
As painful as her loss has been, it was certainly worth the nearly sixteen wonderful years we had together. As C. S. Lewis once put in The Four Loves: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Psalm 23 (Marybeth)
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Liturgy for Francesca
Leader Let us sing to the Lord a new song;
All a song for all the creatures of the earth.
Leader Let us rejoice in the goodness of God
All shown in the beauty of all things.
A Reading from the Revelation to John (Rev. 21:1, 4-5a, 6)
I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed
away. And he shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death,
neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things
are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold I make all things new. I
am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
The Word of the Lord
All Thanks be to God.
This we know: every living thing is yours and returns to you. As we ponder this mystery
we give you thanks for the life of Francesca Josephine and we commit her into your loving
hands. Gentle God: fragile is your world, delicate are your creatures, and costly is your
love which bears and redeems us all.
Holy Creator, give us eyes to see and ears to hear how every living thing speaks to us of
your love. Let us be awestruck at your creation and daily sing your praises. Especially,
create within us a spirit of gratitude for the life of our beloved Franno who has lived among
us and given us freely of her love (and slaps and hisses). Even in our sorrow we have cause for joy for we know that all creatures who died on earth shall live again in your new creation. Amen.
Eulogy (Dave): “Let Her Roar Again”
Mr. Rogers had his Daniel Striped Tiger, and for the last sixteen years I had the privilege of owning, or being owned by, a crazily-colored calico kitty Francesca Josephine. I had seen a picture of the kitten before my friend Ted brought her to my house in Pennsylvania. I would look at the picture and know that we had a lot of living ahead of us, and was I ever right. As for her name Francesca, it just seemed right. A very big name for a very little kitten; the incongruity couldn’t be resisted. Her middle name Josephine was a function of her coat of many colors; as a girl, it was Josephine, though, rather than Joseph. Not only was her hair unpredictable and frenetic, matching her eccentric borderline personality, even one of the pads of one of her back paws was unorthodox; while all the others were pink, one outlier was obstinate pitch black.
She leaves behind two step sisters, Storm and Buffy, who mourn, but not without hope. They now no longer will have to afford Franno such a wide berth as they innocently traverse from one room to the next. They will also be exponentially less likely to receive unprovoked socks in the face, and yet they both loved her, despite the abuse and even though she never quite forgave them for invading her house. Still, their love cast out any fear of Franno, unlike most humans whose path crossed with hers. It may have been hard for Franno to get used to her sisters because for the first half dozen years of her life it was just her and me, and she had grown used to that.
From her earliest days, she made my home hers, making it very clear that she was in charge and that I was pretty much around to do her bidding. When I ate, she expected to eat. When I took a nap, I was not to snore too loudly because she planned on getting some serious shut-eye, usually curled up on my chest. Heretofore I had thought that pens were to write with, but I came to realize they were for her to attack without mercy, especially when they were moving without her permission. Moreover, things that were high and lifted up needed to be brought low, and she was the one for the job, especially if they were quite liable to shatter into a million pieces.
After having her for just a few short weeks, I could hardly imagine what I’d do without her, but now we face the horribly sad prospect of bidding Francesca adieu. Her story is through, at least for now, and yet it went so fast—a microcosm of our lives, I suppose. I still remember her first morning in the house, she crawled in her maiden journey to the top of my mattress to find me there. Having traversed the harrowing trek, she saw me and, more importantly, my inviting hand waiting to reward her with a rub, to which she made a beeline; the moment they made contact I heard her explode into a buzzing purr for the first time. She’s been a constant ever since, until last Wednesday when she breathed her last. But she didn’t die alone; no one should have to. Marybeth and I were with her, and Franno and I made eye contact till the end. She finally didn’t seem fearful, and I’m confident that she knew she was loved.
I have a friend who told me that death is natural. It was meant as a comfort, and I thanked her for the effort. But truth be told, I have to demur. I don’t think there’s anything natural about death at all. It’s a fixture of a fallen world alright, but that doesn’t make it natural. Franno was suffering near the end, fighting for every breath, and death was for her a mercy, I know that. But a world made right features neither death nor suffering, but unending love that never stops growing, and where goodbyes are unnecessary.
It’s simply amazing how the little goose curled her way around our hearts. Life without her just won’t be the same. Losing Francesca, in its own way, is a poignant reminder that this world is not yet what it ought to be. But we know that there really is a way the world ought to be, which doesn’t include the painful process of dying for innocent animals.
So we retain a real hope that Francesca’s story may not be at an end, and that among the entailments of the redemption of the created order and the infinite love of God is that there may well be a furry calico surprise in heaven ready for a fresh fight. Now, of course, talk of such a thing is a bit speculative, but God made us curious about such matters, and there’s plenty of things he didn’t tell us—plus, the typical way most people avoid conjecture is dogmatism, so there’s that. Some insist we won’t see our animals again. I tend instead to agree with Lewis and John Wesley, NT Wright and Jerry Walls, St. Francis and Pope John Paul II. At least I can hope, and strongly suspect the hope won’t disappoint. What God’s plans are for the animals is one of those things about which we’re told rather little. I imagine his plans are far grander than we might initially suppose.
Here is something that Lewis wrote in a letter in 1962 that touched on how his view of the resurrection informed his ideas on animal immortality: “. . . in The Problem of Pain I ventured the supposal—it could be nothing more—that as we are raised in Christ, so at least some animals are raised in us. Who knows, indeed, but that a great deal even of the inanimate creation is raised in the redeemed souls who have, during this life, taken its beauty into themselves? That may be the way in which the ‘new heaven and the new earth’ are formed. Of course we can only guess and wonder. But these particular guesses arise in me, I trust, from taking seriously the resurrection of the body.”
Lewis saw Genesis and the creation account as important here, too, writing “The old picture of the brutes sporting Adam and fawning upon him may not be wholly symbolical. Even now more animals than you might expect are ready to adore man if they are given a reasonable opportunity: for man was made to be the priest and even, in one sense, the Christ of the animals—the mediator through whom they apprehend so much of the Divine splendor as their irrational nature allows.”
Joyce Salisbury writes that “Medieval thinkers – like modern ones – had a whole range of visions of the afterlife from a purely anthropocentric view to a more integrated view in which all of creation was perfected into the next world. Why should we care about these options? Human visions of heaven mark our highest hopes, and inevitably these hopes affect how we act in this world. In a purely anthropocentric vision, the environment is temporary and animals are irrelevant. However, people who truly believe that we are all in this together and we will all share in the reward of heaven might look and act more generously to the world that surrounds us. The lion might not lie down with the lamb in this life, but there are ways to live more harmoniously together. That is a decent aspiration.”
I like that, because it reminds me that the way we treat the most vulnerable and helpless and innocent in this world—of our own species and others—says a lot about our values and our view of God, of creation and the human condition.
I don’t understand why our little innocent Franno had to endure the painful effects of a particularly virulent and aggressive carcinoma that would take her too soon. I absolutely hated it for her. Of course it brought to mind the whole problem of evil, which then reminded me of a lesson Fran once taught me about that heady topic. On a particular occasion we needed to give her a bath to give her relief from some fleas that had gotten into the house. As I did so, she let out an incessant, blood-curdling scream that persisted for the whole affair. I’m sure neighbors, if they could hear it, would have assumed I was torturing a child. I so wanted her to know it was for her good and she would be safe, but there was nothing I could do to communicate it. But then it dawned on me that I sometimes scream out in fear and terror and pain, too, not understanding why God would allow this or that suffering or trial. But just as I had my reasons to make her endure the ordeal, so does God to make us endure ours. In fact, there’s far more distance between us and God than between us and Franno. So that was a useful lesson—the day Franno no doubt both resented me and questioned my existence.
I recall again that first day together in Pennsylvania the way Francesca discovered her reflection in a floor-level mirror and found it the most frightful formidable foe imaginable. I heard a ruckus from the other room and went to check it out. Her back was raised as far as it would go, all of four inches from the ground, she was prancing back and forth on the tips of her paws while practicing her first fledgling angry and indignant hisses. To this day I can’t fathom what on earth she found scary about the tiny furry image—other than, I suppose, the fact that she may have seen her inner lion every time she looked in a mirror.
I like to imagine that when I see her again she will be the lion she always thought she was—or at least allowed to continue thinking so. To paraphrase a passage from Problem of Pain: “I think the lion, when [she] has ceased to be dangerous, will still be awful: indeed, that we shall then first see that of which the present fangs and claws are a clumsy … imitation. There will still be something like the shaking of a golden mane: and often the good Duke will say, ‘Let [her] roar again.’”
Scripture Readings (Marybeth)
Isaiah 11:6-7, 9 - 6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
Revelation 5:13 - And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, [be] unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
Luke 3:6 - And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
Isaiah 65:25 - The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust [shall be] the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, says the LORD.
Isaiah 11:6 - The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
Revelation 19:11 - And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him [was] called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
Revelation 19:14 - And the armies [which were] in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
1 Corinthians 2:9 - But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
Matthew 10:29 - Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
Psalms 145:21 - My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD: and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.
Genesis 1:25 - And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and everything that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that [it was] good.
Proverbs 12:10 - A righteous [man] regards the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked [are] cruel.
Psalms 24:1 - The earth [is] the LORD'S, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
Genesis 1:24 - And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
Romans 8:18-23 New Revised Standard Version (Nathaniel)
18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
The Friendly Beasts: Perhaps the most famous poem starring the Christmas animals is the old French carol entitled The Friendly Beasts (circa 12th century; English trans. by Robert Davis, 1934), which focuses on the humble contributions of the stable animals assumed present at the birth of Christ. It is sung from the perspective of the donkey who lovingly carried Mary on her long journey to Bethlehem, the cow who donated the manger in which Christ lay, the sheep who gave up his wool for the swaddling clothes, and the dove who gently sang the Christ child to sleep on the night of his birth. Each verse begins with the refrain “‘I’, said the donkey, shaggy and brown” or “‘I’, said the sheep with the curly horn,” and the carol’s last verse runs as follows:
Thus every beast by some glad spell,
In the stable dark was glad to tell
Of the gift he gave Emmanuel.
The gift he gave Emmanuel.
“O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
Prayer for Animals
God Our Heavenly Father, You created the world to serve humanity’s needs and to lead them to You. By our own fault, we have lost the beautiful relationship which we once had with all your creation. Help us to see that by restoring our relationship with You we will also restore it with all Your creation. Give us the grace to see all animals as gifts from You and to treat them with respect for they are Your creation. We pray for all animals who are suffering as a result of our neglect. May the order You originally established be once again restored to the whole world through the merits of Your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ Who lives and reigns with You now and forever. Amen. ~ St. Francis of Assisi
Saying Goodbye (for now), “Another Hallelujah”
Our Father in heaven, we thank you for all creation, for flowers of field and garden, for friends and family voices, and especially for our faithful friend and constant companion, Francesca.
This beloved pet, though unable to speak, told us in many ways that we were loved by one of Your creation. It has been said that actions speak louder than words. In many ways, Francesca spoke of her constant love, respect, and loyalty to us. Would that mankind could do likewise.
We have come here to say farewell to a true friend and loving member of our household. We thank You, Lord, for sending us this beloved companion. Francesca will not be forgotten.