The cat died. I keep looking for her as I step outside or pull into the driveway at night and then I have to remind myself: she’s gone. I saw it coming six months ago when she stopped grooming herself and her plush soft fur turned into matted dreads with leaves and sticks trailing from her tail. Then the days evolved into huge Nap-a-thons with small breaks for food. Then eating stopped and she began to look for a good place to die – somewhere protected and quiet.
I called in to work and said my cat was dying which made the supervisor cry. If I had said I was dying she would’ve said nothing or maybe,
“So does this mean you’re not coming in?”
We got this cat 16 years ago when my son Jake, tired of burying goldfish, announced he wanted a pet with four feet. She was a tiny calico orphan at the shelter and he named her Stella Luna after his favorite book about a bat. Spence liked Stella because she came when you called her like a dog and she had the most beautiful fur, thick and silky, which she took great pride in.
There were many days after Spence died when relationships with people were too complex and exhausting and I retreated to the stillness of my home, the dog at my side and Stella would stretch out across my chest and stomach like an exotic throw and her warmth and breathing would somehow bring peace.
Every time we moved she disappeared for a week, out into the woods. Once we found out that she had been hanging out with the feral cats, like a feline street gang, and she seemed a little less enamored with us humans when she returned. The last few years were predictable. She loved being outdoors and her hiding places, but was smart enough to stay close. She liked me and I think my husband after he rescued her in a blizzard but I told everyone else not to go near her. She drew blood, without warning, on a few occasions. So it was just CB and me at the funeral.
I don’t manage loss well. You would think I would be a professional, with a large file of coping mechanisms and wisdom from previous and much greater losses. But I fall apart. Anything that jostles or shakes my emotional frame sends me scrambling to catch the falling pieces, like china hurtling off a narrow shelf. I can’t differentiate the pieces. It’s all just a big mess to me and I plead with God to let me go home but He says the same thing every time – nothing. Yet His eyes burn with compassion and sorrow. Even for a cat.
Stella was 16 and I looked it up – that’s 86 in cat years. She had a good life and a good death too. I held her dirty body next to mine under the half moon as the sweet May breeze carried the last of the fading lilacs and wept. Sometimes the world just seems to turn too fast. I try to make mental notes of all the things that are no longer where they used to be, but I forget and look anyway. You can make yourself not care, but then you run the risk of…well, not caring – about all of it. Then what’s the point?
I love that Jesus didn’t come as a philosopher or professor that stood in front of the class with a pointer because I never would’ve gotten it. Instead he pulls a chair up and sits with us, patient and ever so kind. He even stoops down and helps us pick up the broken pieces, one by one. And I know this is crazy, but I asked him if he could take Stella to Spence. I can just see it.
“Hey Jesus, where are you going with the cat? “and he would just smile and shake his head..
Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God.
I shouldn’t have done it, but I looked up how old Rosie is, my 13-year-old dog. The first site said 96 and I almost fell over. I felt bad for making her take walks. The next site said 82 and that was easier to accept. But it still made me sad. So lately I’ve been giving her extra treats even though she’s a little fat…and deaf.
In Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place, she befriends the ants that crawl through her cell while she is in solitary confinement. Their life gave her purpose. As long as we still care, we have hope. Sometimes a lifeline comes from an unlikely source; mean cats, old dogs and small children. Or ants.
They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion. Psalm 84:7
My doughter-in-law sent this text yesterday:
How are you doing with no Stella?
Before she married my son, she was my pet sitter when we went away. We used to laugh at how sweet Rosie was and how not- so-sweet Stella was. I told her I still looked for her and that I ‘m sure I was over reacting, to which she responded:
16 years is a long time…she was family. Sweet cranky Stella. She lived a whole lot of life with you guys.
Maybe I’m not so crazy. Or maybe I’m blessed enough to have amazing daughter-in-laws – two of them- that always bring comfort when I get jostled.
Strength to strength. God marks each step and lays the way before us until one day we will look up and see we are home. Maybe Stella will be there too with her fur fixed. I’m not sure of that part. But this I know. No more broken pieces to pick up, no more looking for things that should be there but are gone. Everything will be just right.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV