Two weeks ago I hauled my aging cat to the vet. We should qualify for a frequent visitor award. This time his face had ballooned up and he couldn't open his eye. My professional opinion (okay fine...I googled it) was he either had a tooth abcess or had been in a fight. Again.
I know. I know. Cat owners are supposed to keep their cats inside. This particular cat was having none of that. He was born 17 years ago to a wild barn cat out in the boonies. I heard the kittens were being picked off by coyotes and so I went into rescue mode and he showed up at my house in a big cardboard box. He was indignant. If I make him stay inside anywhere too long he gets that same look.
The little guy was a tad too young to leave his mama and so our dog Ripely adopted the cat. Ripley carried him around in her mouth and allowed the cat to attempt cross species nursing. They bonded quickly and were best friends until we had to put Ripley down a couple of years ago. The cat didn't eat for days. I took him to the vet. They fixed him up with some appetite supporters and we switched him to the good stuff.
One week ago, after we'd let a round of antibiotics do their thing, I took the cat back in for a consult.
AaaaHHH!!!! $1000 estimate for two teeth extraction and support. On a 17 year old cat. What to do. What to do.
The starving kids in Africa, my kid who is ready for braces, a tree we need to pay to have taken down and a spouse who is sick of the cat peeing everywhere were weighing on me.
And yet. This sweet boy.
Guilt...in either decision. Grace shows up in the hard and ugly right? In the petty little things that don't globally matter but which rock our day worlds? Right?
My friend wisely observed it's so hard to make decisions based on the end of a life.
No kidding. Thoughts of Charlie Gard and his parents fighting the entire British government flood my brain. Perspective is good.
There are moms in Syria boiling cardboard right now to feed their children as dinner.
My cat eats better than the children in Syria.
The blood work came back and revealed my pet has been betrayed by his kidneys. Surgery was pointless. Saddened and strangely relieved because the decision was obvious now, I scheduled one last appointment with the vet.
I leaked grief in quiet moments all week. In the little clinicians room I struggled to hold it together. I failed. Head down on exam table I broke down while waiting for the vet to come. My kids were crying. My husband was a stable force of comfort. He patted my back and kissed my forehead. Held the girls. I pulled it together and we all said goodbye.
I pause sometimes and shake my head at the photos of kids in Syria eating cardboard for dinner. I haven't once sobbed over their plight. I think perhaps God wants my heart to break for hurting kids more than my cat.
Don't mistake me. It is good to love well and deeply all of creation. Barn cats included. We learn much, love grows.
C S Lewis wrote this about your heart “If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket —safe, dark, motionless, airless —it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
If one of my children was crying Casey would come sit beside them. His warmth and weight would settle their spirit. Cats are proof that one of the best ways to love hurting people is to just be present. On a rough day I would take great comfort in him just sitting on my lap. Yesterday my husband's hand on my back was enough.
What I know is my life was better because of this cat. I also know his life was saved because I chose to save him. The coyotes lost because I made a decision to love despite the cost to my wallet, to my carpet or to my heart.
You know the obvious sermon there. Our lives are redeemed because a creator chooses us. Despite the cost. He invites us to a feast of the good stuff.
He also invites us to to be involved in a rescue. Sometimes it'll break your heart. It'll cost something. But you can make a difference by choosing to be present, to invest, love, laugh and grieve.. Indoor cats are safer but the ones who go outside have adventures. Go outside. Hearts don't belong in cardboard caskets.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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