On Losing a Beloved Cat

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yellow and white cat

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On Good Friday my wife and I took Sam to the vet. He had urinary tract blockage, common in cats, that two surgeries could not alleviate. We walked into the surgery room with Sam still asleep with the anesthesia mask on. We stroked him, spoke to him, stayed with him a few minutes before the vet came in with the medication to give Sam so he could avoid a painful death. He passed quietly, and we stroked him a long time. Sam had visited the vet’s many times recently, and everyone fell in love with him. He was an incredibly sweet, trusting cat who loved for someone to stroke his belly. We took the body home, spent some time with it before burying it with two other beloved cats in the back yard. My wife ordered a headstone to join the others.

Pets become more than pets–they often become part of the family. My wife and I do not have children, so our cats are, in a sense, proxies, although we recognize that they are not human beings. We probably love them as much as any other loved one, and I have not cried this much since my best friend died last year. But I did receive one gift that helped.

[The cat in the photo is not Sam, but he could pass for Sam’s twin]

Three nights ago I felt paws walk over my feet. Thinking it was our other cat, Frodo, I looked up–no cat. The following night the same thing happened. I raised my head, looked across my wife, and a cat sat “meatloaf style” on the other side of the bed. He looked at me. I blinked, since the cat was not Frodo. There was enough light to make out the light patterns of yellow and white–it was Sam. He stayed still a few seconds, then dissolved into the air. Now a skeptic may say that hallucinations can occur in the hypnogogic state between wakefulness and sleep. Or a skeptic who accepts psi may argue that the apparition may be due to my own psychokinesis. But I believe this was a gift, Sam appeared to me to give me comfort, and by God’s grace he was permitted to do so. I have never had a problem believing that non-human animals, especially higher animals, will be raised from the dead. I believe that, if God so grace me that I enter Heaven, that I shall see Sam once more, along with all the beloved pets–and all the beloved people–I have known this side of eternity. “And all manner of things shall be well”–St. Julian of Norwich.

Does Time Move Faster as We Get Older?

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Transit spatio-temporel (Time & Space Transit)

Image by Gilderic via Flickr

As a child, days seemed to last forever. I’d lie by the fan on the cool floor in summer, watch the blades as they sped into a whirl. Or I’d swing across the gravel drive as if time stood still. In those moments, the slowness of time seems now a foreshadowing of eternal joy.

But there was the “bad” slowness of time, as Christmas crept closer, and the days slid slowly along like a snail on a leaf. Waiting to grow up, to be able to drive a car, was a lesson in patience, especially when I sat in the driver’s seat of my uncle’s Plymouth Fury. The first day I loved cottage cheese was when my aunt said that eating it would make me grow up faster so I could drive that car.

School days dragged, but both happy and sad moments lasted. Since then, memory, thankfully, has made the past sacred, and childhood seems an idealized timeless dream in wonderland. I wish I could go back and enjoy the slowness of time.

After high school, time flowed faster, and today, two years from fifty, time rages downstream like waters just before they fall into Niagara foam. I used to be able to sit down in the woods and contemplate what had happened in my life, to “take stock of things” as the cliche says. Now weeks were once what days were, and time to take stock is rare–perhaps during summer break while sitting outside in a swing or lying in grass under a red maple. But then the reality of time’s pace overwhelms, as years of gain and dear God, so much loss, so many family members and friends gone forever, at least this side of eternity. Perhaps Heaven will be a place where every moment is good and beyond the limits of time, with no worry about decay and death, and where memory and dream are as real as waking life. Until then, life passes by too fast, as chairos, subjective time, chases chronos, “objective,” “clock time,” and appears to catch up to it and pass it.

The answer to my original question of whether time moves faster as we get older is “Yes, in a sense.” Chronos will move on, set by the motion of the earth’s revolution around the sun and ultimately by the beginning of time at the Big Bang. But Chairos runs faster until it flies through the air as life runs its inexorable course toward the abyss–yet for me, I hope, as a Christian, that death is not an abyss, that the damage time does will be reversed, and that the good time does by making moments sacred will be enhanced beyond any of our wildest dreams.

Sacred Memory

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Downtown Murfreesboro, Tennessee Image copylef...

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Summer 1972. I rock in a wood chair on a porch that will soon be filled in to form my new bedroom. Sunlight brings out the dark green bluegrass and lighter fescue that fades into red clay under two oaks that border Shirley Road. A green 1962 Oldsmobile slows, and Granddaddy waves me inside. I jump from the rocking chair, sprint to the open door, sit in the soft seat in the back. Granny sits to the right as Granddaddy drives to the square in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. There we stop at Great Aunt Flora’s shop, a thrift store in a building so old that its upper floor had bars bordering the street. I ran up the steps and pretended that the musty room was a jail as I looked outside as legs and feet passed. The high hells, some topped by shoes so red the glint from the sun hurt my eyes, fascinated me. Then I was downstairs, found an American History book from the 1950s, and began to read. I asked Aunt Flora the price. “Just a quarter,” and Granddaddy paid.

“It’s good to see a boy interested in books,” she said, and I was proud.

“Let’s go to the courthouse,” Granddaddy said, and we walked across Church Street toward the center of the square, stopped under a grove of large oaks. On wood benches sat old men whittling cedar blocks; the odor of the shavings slid into my nose, pleasant as a cat’s fur. The old men talked, small talk, but I took in the moment, stored it as we entered the courthouse, found Aubrey’s candy stand, Aubrey who was blind, from whom my mother and aunt bought candy as children, from whom Granddaddy bought a Zero Bar for me. Then we walked back to Flora’s, left the square for the IGA store, where I cooled off by the freezers, their fresh vegetables and fruit a feast for the eyes. It was after five, time to go. I was staying overnight at their home, a large log house covered with wood siding. At twilight I sat on concrete steps, watched lightning bugs flash, feeling the cool of evening take the day’s heat. Later, bath and bed, windows open, cool breeze, sleep. That was the best day of my life.

Why do such memories seem so sweet. Philosopher Peter Kreeft says that memories sanctify the good things that happened in life, making them a foretaste of Heaven. No day could be as perfect as I imagine that day in 1972 to have been–yet my memory makes it a piece of sacred space and time. It is a hint of what is to come by God’s grace. And if should die in such grace, it would be so good to wake up in my grandparents’ house, hearing the mockingbird’s song, feeling the rush of wind through window screens, smelling bacon cooking in the kitchen, the radio on to WGNS. I walk into the kitchen, Granny taking bacon out of the pan, Granddaddy at the table’s end. There will be an eternity to explore God’s creation and explore the mind of God. Who knows? But sacred memory may be the start of an adventure that is both continuous and different than this life, an unending time for growth in love for other people and for God. In a way, I hope that God starts small, grants each of us a sacred memory that is no longer just a memory, but reality realer than this world, reality without evil, reality given by grace, undeserved.