Saturday, February 21, 2009

Here by Grace

(My beloved Kitty, a gift of love for 20 years.)

(Puma, here by grace.)
Puma is my six-year-old cat. I brought her home from an animal shelter late last April.
She is here, living the life of Riley, by grace. Although she has moments of being the cat I would most like her to be, the rock-bottom of it is that she carries "baggage" from her five and a half years with two previous owners, not to mention her subsequent time in the animal shelter.
She has done nothing to earn her present good circumstances. Puma is here now because once Kitty was here.
My beloved Kitty died the Saturday after Easter last year, after having been part of my life, and my daughter's, for nearly twenty years.
My daughter and I got Kitty when she was a kitten. We answered an ad from a family giving her away because their young son, who adored her, had developed severe allergies. I'll never forget the look on the little boy's face when he had to say goodbye to Kitty.
Kitty seamlessly became part of our family, a warm and calm presence in a home that I held together. When after many years I realized I could no longer hold it together, she and my daughter and I became a new, smaller family. Later still, Kitty accompanied my daughter and me in forming a new family, at my re-marriage.
I'm sad to say that for many of those years, I took Kitty for granted; having been my daughter's seven-year-old birthday gift, she belonged to my daughter.
Kitty became mine when my daughter left, first for college, then for an apartment where pets weren't welcome. It was then that I began to realize -- but only began to realize -- what a gift Kitty was, in her unfailing affection. Kitty was love, personified. Or if you prefer, feline-ified.
There is no lack of love between my daughter and I, nor any lack in love between my husband and I, so it's hard to explain, even to myself, why Kitty's affectionate nature began to matter so much to me. I only know that it did.
This became painfully evident when suddenly, last Good Friday, she stopped eating. It was the longest week of my life. Because of my daughter's work schedule, she could not come with me and Kitty for that last visit to the vet until the following Saturday morning; and because my daughter and Kitty had grown up together, strongly bonded, there was no question if my taking Kitty to the vet without her.
My husband drove us to the vet, while in the back seat my daughter and I stroked Kitty, lying in her favorite basket.
While the three of us were still in the waiting room, I sensed that Kitty had already passed. This was confirmed when we were taken in to the vet's examining room.
We had a beautiful little funeral in our backyard, complete with prayers from a book my sister had given me, and fresh flowers.
I had known all along Kitty's time was coming; I had never expected to get another cat.
It was a tidal wave: The grief that followed the loss of that sweet loving little pet. I had expected sadness; what I got was quite a bit more than that.
Eventually it was decided I would take in another cat. I knew it would not be possible to replace Kitty; I was proven right.
I've learned to accept Puma for what she is -- to appreciate her intelligence, beauty and manic bursts of playfulness; and to allow her to "train me" as all cats do with their "owners."
I enjoy having her in my life. I treat her very well; she lives like the queen she believes herself to be.
Yet it remains a fact ... just something I'm mulling over, today ... that the good life into which she has been delivered has been won not by anything she herself is, nor by anything she has ever done. It's a free gift. She is here not because of her own goodness, but because of Kitty's. Kitty, who embodied love.
Puma is here by grace. As am I.
What I learned from Kitty: All life is sacred; all love is holy.

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