Kimmie was a nice little hamster who became our family pet years ago. A co-worker’s daughter had a hamster with babies that needed a home and I agreed to take one.
Chuck always called Kimmie, “the free, $40 hamster.” That’s because while I got Kimmie for free, we plopped down a few bills at a pet store to buy food, bedding, a cage and a bright, pink exercise ball.
I gave the little cream-colored hamster to our son, Zach, who called her Kim.
We think she was a girl.
Then still in elementary school, Zach was the one who gently held Kimmie and gave me the confidence to hold her, too. More often than not, I cleaned out her cage. I liked the hamster I called “Kimmie.” The little critter seemed to settle into our family, which included Archie, the grumpy old basset hound; Jughead, the chow-hound beagle; and Abby, the princess pup who ruled our doggie kingdom.
Our dogs didn’t pay too much attention to Kimmie — which was probably a good thing. I still remember the surprise Archie got when Kimmie rolled her exercise ball into his head while he was sleeping. He woke up, blinked a little and decided to snooze elsewhere.
We’d had Kimmie for about 17 months when Chuck built and painted a nice white, wooden box in which we could fit the cage. The box would catch whatever cedar shavings Kimmie decided to kick out of her cage so they wouldn’t cover the carpet.
About a week after Chuck built that box, I found Kimmie lying on her side in the cage. She’d seemed to have slowed down as of late.
Now she didn’t look good at all.
She looked dead.
“Oh no,” I thought. “Poor Zach. Kimmie is dead. What am I going to tell him?”
“And what were we going to do with a dead hamster?”
I called a friend, who told me to throw the hamster away. I couldn’t do that.
So I called our veterinarian’s office.
The receptionist was very sweet. She suggested that I put Kimmie in a plastic bag in the freezer until Zach got home, then we could bury our little pet later.
Was she kidding? She wanted me to put a dead hamster next to my Jimmy Dean sausage?
I couldn’t stomach the thought.
Ideas raced through my brain.
Could I bury Kimmie in our backyard? No! What if our dogs dug her up? Could I bury her by the side of the house? No! What if some other dog dug her up?
I can’t remember who spoke next, but the receptionist told me to bring in Kimmie and they’d take care of the arrangements.
I put Kimmie in a plastic bag and hurried to the vet’s office.
The nice receptionist carefully took Kimmie out of the sack.
“Awww, I used to have one of these,” she said, gently petting the animal’s fur.
I was on my way out the door when the receptionist suddenly stopped fussing over Kimmie.
“It’s not dead,” she said.
I was mortified.
What if I’d put Kimmie in the freezer or buried her?
“Uh ... I think she’s on her way out, isn’t she?” I asked, timidly.
“Yes,” the receptionist said, softly, adding, “We’ll take care of her.”
I was a little rattled when I reached the car.
OK, I’m no Dr. Doolittle, but I sure misdiagnosed this case.
How could I not know that Kimmie hadn’t quite left us?
Perhaps there are times when it’s tough to tell if a person or animal has died.
But that wasn’t the case in a Biblical account in the book of John, starting with chapter 11.
Here we meet three siblings, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, who live in a village called, Bethany, and are friends of Jesus.
In this story, Lazarus gets sick and the sisters send for Christ.
You’d think Jesus would hurry to Bethany, but that doesn’t happen. He stays put for two more days.
Then he says: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m going there to wake him up.”
The disciples — common sense guys that they are — can’t figure out why Jesus wouldn’t let a sick man get some rest.
“Lord, if he sleeps he will get better,” they say.
Jesus then tells them plainly: “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe....”
By the time Jesus reaches Bethany, there’s no doubt that Lazarus is dead.
He’s already been in a tomb four days.
When Martha hears that Jesus is in town, she rushes from her house — filled with mourners — to meet him.
“Lord, if you’d been here, my brother would not have died,” she says to Jesus, “but I know even now that God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus says: “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha says she knows her brother will be resurrected on the last day.
That’s when Jesus explains: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies....”
“Do you believe this?” he asks Martha.
Yes, Martha tells Christ that she believes he’s the promised Messiah.
Martha then gets her sister, Mary, and other mourners follow. Jesus sees all the weeping people and is deeply moved in his spirit.
And he does something that still touches the hearts of people today: He weeps.
He goes to the tomb — a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.
“Take away the stone,” he says.
Martha isn’t so sure about this.
“But, Lord,” she says, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
I try to imagine the tone — the depth and tenderness — of Jesus’ voice as he says: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
Then he prays. He thanks his father for hearing him — acknowledging that he always does.
With a loud voice, Jesus says “Lazarus, come out.”
Guess what happens?
Lazarus comes out with his hands and feet wrapped in strips of linen — as was common in those days — and a cloth around his face.
Jesus tells the people to take off the grave clothes and let Lazarus go.
We learn so many lessons from this — like how the Lord uses what my pastor, the Rev. Mike Washburn, calls “divine delays,” which have a purpose.
I understand delay.
For years, I wondered why I hadn’t met “Mr. Right,” but after Chuck and I married I saw how God had prepared us and our families for our union.
Through the Lazarus account, we also learn that God can do the impossible. We learn that what we thought was dead — might not be.
Do you think your marriage is over? Your relationship with that wayward child? Your career? I’ve seen God resurrect relationships and job situations that I might not have thought possible.
But perhaps my favorite lesson is that we serve a compassionate Savior who weeps for us and brings us the gift of eternal life.
I experienced that compassion when my dad, Glenn, died years ago. A pastor spoke with my dad before he died, telling him to trust Jesus to which my father — who was hooked to a respirator and couldn’t talk — nodded in the affirmative.
The pastor said he believed Dad went to heaven, but I worried. I wasn’t sure if my dad had resolved his unforgiveness toward people who’d hurt him. So did God take him to heaven?
While I don’t know if it’s a good idea to pray for a sign from God, I came to a point where I sought some confirmation.
“Please show me that my dad is OK, and that he’s with you,” I silently prayed at church one night.
Before going to bed, I realized it had been awhile since I’d read my daily devotions. I picked up the little booklet and thumbed through the pages.
A date caught my eye. It was July 10, 1996, the day my dad died. I decided to read the short message and accompanying Bible verses.
To my surprise, it involved the story of Lazarus and his sisters.
I read Christ’s words of “...he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”*
The words seemed to jump off the page at me. Despite my dad’s struggle with unforgiveness, I knew he believed Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins.
A feeling of joy swept over me. It was as if God were saying, “Don’t worry. He’s with me.”
I remember Dad once said he wasn’t sure if he would go to heaven, because maybe God wouldn’t think that he was sorry enough for the things that he’d done wrong.
How sorry do you have to be? I don’t know. But I know that the Savior who gave us the story of the Prodigal son and his loving father wants us to be with him.
He loves reunions — whether it’s a brother reunited with his sisters or a lost child reunited with his God.
I love my Lord so much.
Oh ... in case you’re wondering how Zach took the news about Kimmie, you need not have worried. Zach called me from his friend’s house after school. I think I was at work.
“Zach, I’m so sorry. I have bad news. Kimmie died today,” I said.
Precious little time went by before Zach had a question.
“Um, do we have anything good at home to eat?” he wondered.
So much for grief. Just pass the treats.
I thoroughly cleaned Kimmie’s cage and Chuck took it and the nice white box to the Dodge County Humane Society.
No more hamsters for us, but I still cherish memories of Kimmie.
And I’m glad I didn’t put her in the freezer with my Jimmy Dean sausage.
* King James Version
Tammy McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She can be reached at 402-721-5000, Ext. 1433 or via email at email@example.com.