I awoke this morning with little else on my mind than my urgent need for coffee and my morning head congestion.
Not long after that, as I sat drinking that cup of coffee and watching the Today Show, I got the news that has monopolized my thoughts today. My husband went outside to leave for work, and returned back inside all too quickly. He told me the news: Our cat had died somehow during the night.
Kitter was a Godsend. I don’t use that language lightly. For months after my husband and I got married, I was convinced that she hated me for moving in on her territory. Soon, though, she made all the difference in the world to me when I was suffering under the weight of depression. She would curl up at my feet as I burrowed under the covers of my bed, purring and warming my leg as she dozed. She taught me, through those countless naps, that God knows my deepest needs and cares to meet me right where I am…even if I am buried under blankets and crying. He created an animal who purrs because He knew how good it would make us feel to hear it.
She would crawl up in my lap and knead, knead, knead before taking a nap. I always thought it was her way of saying that somehow she needed me as much as I needed her…that maybe I wasn’t as useless and hopeless as I felt.
Today, though, there is no purring, and there is no kneading on my leg as I sit and write this. She is gone. For the first time since early this morning, I don’t have tears streaming down my face or a lump in my throat. I might be able to write this without breaking down.
She was my buddy. My friend. A little ten pound “Meatloaf,” as I called her when she curled up on the floor in her roosting position. She loved popcorn and anything salty. Well, really, she loved salt. It didn’t matter what it came on. She loved leather shoes and fuzzy blankets. She loved Jennifer more than we ever expected her to, and oh…did Jennifer love her back. Did she ever. Kitter’s relationship with Jennifer was shaping up to be one of those beautiful relationships between a child and a pet – one of those relationships that makes people shake their heads and say, “Why in the world does that animal put up with that?”
It was beautiful to see. I loved that cat, and she grew to love my daughter. It was precious, and I celebrated the day I began to see it happening. The first time Kitter crawled up into Jennifer’s lap on her own, I recognized the look on both of their faces. It was a look of love. A look of understanding.
Today, though, my little girl is asking over and over where “my kitten” is, and insists that Kitter will get Mommy’s car and come back soon. I’ve explained it to her…but how much can she understand? She’s not even three yet.
I am not naive. I know that pets are not forever friends, and that their time on Earth is shorter than ours…and usually shorter than any of us want it to be. I’ve lost pets before – beloved pets, even – but none like this one. None unexpected. None that leave me wondering what happened and why.
Those are the questions I have been asking all day, though, and that I desperately want answered…even while I am terrified of what that answer might be. Nothing about Kitter’s passing makes sense. Something strange happened last night.
As I was crying and asking questions this morning, mere minutes after talking to Jennifer about where Kitter is, Jennifer called my attention to something on the coffee table. There it was, illuminated by the early morning sunlight and positioned among the omnipresent (in our house, anyway) smudged fingerprints.
“Look, Mommy! It’s a cross!”
Sure enough, there it was. A cross. A symbol of Jesus’ life and death. A symbol of what makes it possible for me to live. A reminder – once again – that God knew from the very beginning what we needed.
What’s more, as I looked at that cross scratched somehow into our table, I felt the Lord say to me, “I understand. I’m sorry this has happened…I’m so sorry you are hurting…but please take heart. Take comfort in the fact that I do understand.”
He knows loss. He understands pain. I, myself, cannot understand what has happened, or why…but I trust what I know. God understands. Strangely, that gives me a lot of comfort today. Yes, she was “just” a cat. But she was a cat God sent to me and my family, and she was just what we needed her to be. I also realize that there are those who are mourning much greater losses today. I hope that my grief is not offensive in any way to those who are hurting far more deeply – suffering far greater loses – that I may be. We live in a broken world. That is the only explanation I can give for the hurting and grief that runs rampant in the world. There is a lot I don’t understand or know.
I do know, though, that today, the God who sent our sweet Kitter to us is here with us. He is holding us, and today, I believe that He is also holding Kitter. I think she’s probably purring and kneading, and I think He’s telling her she did just what He asked her to do.
“Well done, sweet girl. Well done.”
I even think there might be salty snacks in heaven. I know for sure there are soft blankets.
(Note: Those of you who know my family may be confused by my reference to Jennifer. As my girl gets a little older, I’m giving her a pseudonym anytime I reference her in my online space. When I asked her what name she would want if she could have any name in the world, she said Jennifer. So Jennifer she shall be! Here, anyway….)