Thursday, January 21, 2021

Do Animals Know When You’re Grieving?

 For several years we’ve had two cats: a black one and a white one. They couldn’t be more opposite. One likes people and the other one just likes ONE person. They fight all the time, and when the black one isn’t sneaking onto the counter to find food, the white one is just trying to find some *bleeping* peace and quiet.

Anyway, when I first got sick with cancer, the black cat started stalking me. EVERY time I’d sit down, the cat was practically magnetized to my presence. I’d sit; he’d sit. I’d walk; he’d walk. And it honestly seemed like he knew how bad I felt—and he wanted to make me better. Meanwhile, the white cat just stared at us like we were crazy. His eyes turned to judgmental slits as he licked his regal paws. (I think he used to be King Tut in a past life.)

Well, on Monday our black cat, Cole, didn’t seem quite right. He flopped onto my lap, nuzzling lethargically up to me. And when Mike brought him to the vet on Tuesday, well... Cole died. It’s hard thinking he’s no longer around to follow me and check up on me—even when I didn’t want him to.... Now I realized how much I enjoyed checking up on him, too. 

Yesterday morning was so lonely, I thought I’d snuggle the white cat—the king—but I changed my mind before even trying. He doesn’t like anyone except our 16-year-old. All day he sits away from people and just wants his fancy food and his space.

The day progressed and my son came up to me. “It’s just so weird that he’s gone. And he can’t come back.” And then the conversation turned to my cancer and how several doctors have only given me two years to live. The thing is that I want to have hope that I can get better, but I also don’t want to hide from facts either. I know death is final, a sobering reality to a sometimes even more sobering world...but if that’s really what God wants, well, my life has always been in His hands. And my kids deserve to hear the truth.

Still, seeing my son’s widening eyes, hearing that he finally understood the irrevocable truth about death...and that he KNEW what we might be facing as a family, THAT made me cry. 

I cried for the lost moments, and for the future ones I might miss. I cried because I want to protect my kids from the pains of the world, but right now my sickness is a source of that very pain. The sadness was so deep, so strong, my chest and insides ached from the heaviness of it all.

And as I cried, out of nowhere, the white cat sauntered around the corner, jumped on my stomach, and stared at me!

We both held each other’s gaze for a while. He’s never sat on me before, and I didn’t know quite what to do. Then he snuggled down, stretched his paw over my shoulder, and simply fell asleep. 

I looked around, bewildered as the cat purred. There wasn’t time to cry anymore—because now I was in shock. How had he known I needed something exactly like this?!

I don’t know why, but it’s the little moments that make life worth living. I suddenly felt as if everything would be okay. It didn’t matter how hard things can be because I felt so much peace emanating from the exact cat who used to hate me. 

I closed my eyes, and we both slept: me in the peace of the moment, and my kingly cat who’d stepped down from his throne to make sure I was okay. 

Death can be hard, but it offers the perspective of gratitude for those brave enough to embrace change. 

Life is so, so beautiful.

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