The “Gift” Of Life

By Rev. Dr. Bobbie McKay  •  May 09, 2024


When my children were young, we lived in a suburb north of Chicago, in a neighborhood of small frame houses and medium sized back yards and quiet streets with parked cars a few blocks from the schools our children attended.

Within a four-block area you had the satisfying choice of playing with the neighbor’s kids or school friends or the kids in your family and the multiplicity of dogs that lived in the neighborhood. A spontaneous game of practically any sport could emerge at any moment with great pleasure during the summer months when school was “out”.

The only problem in this idyllic setting took place when some child or dog in the neighborhood suddenly raced out into the street at the same time that a car was rapidly traveling down the street. At that moment the neighborhood was alerted by the sound of squealing brakes and shrieks from the gathered crowd and parents horrified by the sight of a possible collision between their child or dog and the approaching vehicle.

Mostly, accidents were avoided. But if an animal was hit by an approaching car, it was taken immediately to the Terry Animal Hospital to see owner Dr. Joseph Terry, who was the acknowledged saint of all families who owned pets. In this small neighborhood, dogs and cats were beloved creatures who were clearly owned by the entire neighborhood.

Having been alerted by the approaching vehicle, Dr. Terry prepared his “tools” and heart for the critical moments that lay ahead. His “audience” included both adults and children who were caught in a panicked mix of fear and grief which was beyond their capacity to escape. The children’s young lives had only known the steady safety of the family and now entered a world of fear and danger that was inescapable. For Dr. Terry these opening moments held the potential future for life this animal possessed. He would need all the skills he had so carefully learned and his trust in what he knew.

The moments passed slowly but steadily. Dr. Joe, as he was called, took deep breaths to alleviate his own fears as life grew to fill the room with the presence of Spirit and the steady breathing of an animal fighting for its life.

Parents and children joined Dr. Joe in his concentrated efforts to urge life to enter the moment and breathe in the spirit of healing. It was a moment for love to engage the spirit and live. And in the lives of these children, it was a time to recognize the “gift” of life they were seeing.

It was a lesson they would never forget. Throughout their lives they would encounter sickness and health in various forms; accidents and healing miracles; and the realization of the preciousness of life.

In our family, as in so many families, after an animal has died, it is cremated and the ashes held in a small tin container awaiting a time and place for burial. When I recently moved from the old family home to a small condo, I also had multiple boxes of ashes to take with me from the cremations of pets who had died in our care.

We take “life” so much for granted that we forget the gift that is ours when we enter this world. We survive bouts of sickness and injury as the body engages the healing gifts of spirit and energy. And we recognize the skills of those who are “healers” in this experience of living we share. 

In these moments of healing, we see the products of Love that God creates to transform the world. And we are all changed!


For Reflection (either individually or with a group)

Read the blog. Read it a second time, maybe reading it aloud or asking someone else to read it aloud so you can hear it with different intonation and emphases. Invite the Divine to open your heart to allow the light of new understanding to pierce the shadows of embedded assumptions, stereotypes, and ways of thinking so that you may live more abundantly. Then spend some time with the following questions together with anything or anyone who helps you reflect more deeply.


  • When you were young, did you have any pets? If so, what was it and what was its personality?
  • What, if anything, did you learn if one of your pets or a neighborhood pet died?
  • As a child or teenager, what did you understand about sickness and health and the preciousness of life?



Download a pdf including the Reflection Questions to share and discuss with friends, family, or members of your faith community small group.

About the Author

Rev. Dr. Bobbie McKay

Rev. Bobbie McKay, Ph.D., is a UCC minister, author and licensed psychologist. Rev. McKay cocreated the Spiritual Health Center, NFP, and conducted a research study on spiritual life in the United Church of Christ. Based on the findings of this study, Spiritual Life Teams were born, and the study has been extended to the Episcopal church, the Catholic church and the Reform Jewish Community in the greater Chicago area as well as to Islamic populations in New York, Illinois and Florida. Rev. McKay currently works as pastoral associate in Spiritual Life at Glenview Community Church in Glenview, Illinois.

View all articles by Rev. Dr. Bobbie McKay