Oliver’s Obituary: A Farewell Letter to my Cat

+Job 12:7-10 But ask the animals, and they will teach you… In God’s hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all humankind.

My dearest Oliver,
We said goodbye to you this afternoon.

My heart is broken.

You were a witness to my adulthood, my prayer partner and my confidant.
You were a soft, gentle, warm spot in my life.

We met when I was 22 years old.

I had just moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts for graduate school and I was anxious. One night I had a dream that a cat jumped up on the foot of my bed, rested on my chest and I was finally able to sleep. The very next day I adopted you. I remember calling my roommate on the drive home, you in my lap, asking “how do you feel about cats?“

The shelter grilled me the day I brought you home. They told me “this is a 20 year commitment.” And I still resent it. 14 years feels too short when they promised me 20… though I would never be prepared to say goodbye.

You were a source of comfort. I’ve cried so many tears into your fur, holding you at the end of long days, and in the midst of stressful times.

You were my first family member to meet Andrew, and you liked him. Your endorsement meant everything. You let him hold you and you would purr when he came around, I knew he was a keeper.

In 2010, three weeks into my first ministry calling, the vet diagnosed you with cancer and said we had three months. We took extreme measures, far more than the average cat mom would do, I’m sure. We amputated your back right leg and put you through chemo. Everyone thought we were crazy, they probably still do. But that bought you eight more years with us. It was worth every penny.

You met my children. You allowed Felix to explore your fur and tug at your ears. Bless you. You were always so patient. You let Zora squeal with delight as she watched you. You forgave us for displacing you when a bassinet came into our bedroom, and when our attention turned to the care and feeding of our babies. Thank you.

Letting you go has been excruciating. We were told in February that you had acute kidney failure, and that we should prepare to say goodbye within weeks. For the last six months we administered subcutaneous fluids to you, sometimes twice a day. Everyone told us we would know when it was time to say goodbye. But Oliver, I never knew. Today feels like the worst day.

For your companionship, loyalty, your spirit of calm, your non-anxious presence, and most of all-for the strength you gave me: thank you.

You taught me how to love. You opened my heart. I will remember you always, you handsome fellow.

It’s an honor to love a pet like you. It reminds us that unconditional love is possible. Pets teach us that it is worthy and right to care for those who are smaller than us, who depend on us. You help us make room for the tender, soft, warm things of the world.

I believe that all of God’s creatures have a place in the choir. So I picture you on percussion, purring to the rhythm of God’s heart, and tapping your tail to the music of the heavenly hosts… waiting for the day we will be reunited. I promise you eternal snuggles when I find you again.

Rest well, my love.
Sarah

 


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Families Belong Together

Dearest Felix and Zora,

When I dropped you off at school this morning, you both struggled to let go of me. Zora- you tightened your tiny fists around my shirt and wailed when your teacher lifted you away. I could hear the echo of your cries in the hallway as we walked to your brother’s room.

And Felix, when we stepped outside into the beautiful courtyard of your classroom, filled with cars and tools and a water table waiting to be used-you didn’t want to play. You wrapped your feet and arms around my right leg like a monkey and wouldn’t let go.

It’s as if there is a fear of separation in the air. Maybe you both sense the painful separations of families at our border. Perhaps you can pick up on the heartbreak of children taken from their parents when seeking refuge or asylum in the U.S.. Nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their families under the zero tolerance immigration policy.

I want to tell you a story.

A few weeks ago I had both of you at a rundown grocery store in a part of town we usually avoid. Felix, you were sitting in the seat at the front of the cart and Zora, you were in your car seat filling up the cart itself. I tucked three father’s day cards around you and a bag of grapes, a bunch of bananas, and a box of Benadryl. We were headed for the checkout stand and I paused to look at a magazine. The next thing I know, a man is standing between me and the cart- offering to help me hold one of you while I check out. I said no thanks- but he ignored my request. Felix: he started to lift you out of the cart and he reached for Zora. Everything felt off and I immediately panicked. I shouted “Stop!” and rushed out of the store, piled everything in the car and drove home fast.

I realized I had stolen $42 worth of groceries. In Ohio, shoplifting that amount is considered a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. But I’d do it again if I felt it would keep you safe. Any parent would.

I went back to the store on my own and paid my bill. And today, I will pick you up from school today and we will be together again this evening. But there are children who do not know when they will be reunited with their families because their parents committed a misdemeanor by crossing the border illegally. This is unacceptable and wrong.

And parents fleeing their homes to protect their children isn’t new. Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt with baby Jesus to escape Herod. They were refugees. They were immigrants. They sought asylum.

When I read scriptures from Romans 13 (a biblical reference used by many today to justify harsh laws separating families at the boarder) it says:

Romans 13:9-10: The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Here’s what I know:

-when in doubt, loving one another and acting out of love is the greatest law of all

-Mothers from every culture and community would break a human law to protect their children

-Families belong together

My darlings, in these troubled times, I can tell you we are paying attention. We are going to do all we can to help children just like you who need their mommies and daddies.

To work for change, we can give money to organizations working to reunite families like this one: https://www.theyoungcenter.org/stories/2018/5/8/young-center-announces-the-immigrant-child-and-family-rights-project

We can call our representatives (find yours here: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members_) and demand action (find a script for the call if you need it here: https://www.aclu.org/issues/call-senators-stop-dhs-separating-children).

You inspire us to work for the good.

Love, Mom and Dad

 

 

Parenting in the Midst of Valentines and Violence (A Confession to my Son)

Peace

Dearest Felix:

On February 14th, you came home with your arms full of Valentines-small red and pink papers covered in finger paintings and stickers. You and your classmates exchanged these cards during circle time. In the very moments that you exchanged gestures of love and sweetness with your peers- students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida witnessed one of their peers kill 17 people and injure dozens more.

Today, a little boy at our local middle school took a gun to school and hurt himself in the bathroom.

You are 2 1/2, so you probably won’t ask me about this sad event today or what happened last Wednesday. But soon, my sweet child- we will have to have the talk about what to do, what to think, and how to respond when such horrible events happen.

I don’t know where to start. I don’t know how to talk to you about this.

As a parent in 2018, when our country averages 3 school shootings each week- I live with such fear. How do I protect your innocence and still prepare you for tragedy?

When you hear “pop” you think of Pete the Cat and his groovy buttons popping off his shirt. But I think of the way the students in Parkland described the sounds of gunshots.

When you say “Crash, bang, boom”- you mean to imitate the sound of a front end loader building a road from your A to Z construction site book.

When I hear “Crash, bang, boom”- I fear the sounds of an attack, and I shudder.

Your eyes light up when we talk about heroes and yet I want to teach you how to hide behind a desk, and how you don’t need to be a hero for me, you just need to survive.

Darling boy: please forgive me-forgive all of us- for letting it get like this.

These are broken times, and I do not have the words to begin to explain to you how we got here, or why there is so much to fear.

But I know this: blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

I know that you are made out of love. And so is everybody else.

I know that you are a source of light and you were made to shine that light. And so is everybody else you meet.

I know that things can be different, and we are going to work together to change them. I will teach you how we can work for change.

In the meantime, we will continue to be kind and gentle with everyone we meet. We will practice building people up. We will build bridges instead of walls and extend welcome instead of exclusion.

And every day- I’m going to hold you close, remind you I love you, and encourage you to be the good we wish to see in the world.

Love,

Mom

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