A Glimpse at Letting Go

It’s strange, the way you can receive something without knowing how much you’ll need it a short time later. Last week I wrote to you about the difference 5 minutes can make — how taking a few minutes to listen in a prayerful way can tell you what you most need to know or hear or do. Who knew that just one week after receiving the truth of that experience and sharing it with you, Kirk and I would be sitting in our darkened living room, using that very same practice to determine if it was time to let one of our cats go? It’s true. We did that very thing Friday night. It’s what helped me know the answer was yes. Our Cranky, Sweet Fighter Cat Solomon was a black Bombay cat with gold eyes who at one time weighed about 25 pounds. He loved eating paper and plastic bags (sometimes to his detriment!) and never met a box he didn’t like. He squawked when he was hungry, could be surly and grumpy toward me and our girl cat, Diva, but turned into an adoring puddle of goo whenever Kirk, the object of his hero worship, entered the room. He’d been sick a year and a half.  But he was a fighter, and he hung in there. Our vet affectionately called him a grumpy old man, telling us the cranky cats always seemed to live the longest, simply because they refused to give up. That was our Solomon. Yet that quirk — his fightingness — made it hard to know when to let go. There was always something more we could try to help make his life easier, and he’d usually rally. Plus, neither of us had ever journeyed with a pet to the end of its life before. These were uncharted waters for us. We didn’t know when we would know it was time. A Holy Decision Thursday was a rough night for Sollie. He’d fallen down twice, and his beautiful gold eyes had taken on a look we’d never seen before. That night, his breathing seemed to change, taking on a louder, raspy wheeze. On Friday morning, after that rough night, I told Kirk it might be time. We called a retired veterinarian from our church who still does house calls, and he came over to evaluate Sollie and helped us think through the decision. But he didn’t tell us what to do. He encouraged us to sleep on it and call him in the morning. If we decided the answer was yes, he would come back and usher Solomon over the threshold in the comfort of our home. It was hard for us that he didn’t tell us what to do. I could feel the gravity of the decision — the holiness of life. How could we take that away from another living being?  Listening for Guidance Which is what led us to Friday night and those 5 minutes of listening. We turned off all the lights in the front rooms, and Kirk lit a candle. Solomon lay on a cushion of blankets at our feet, and we sat on our two couches and began to listen in the silence. The first thing I heard was Solomon. He had gotten up and was eating from his dish. I listened to the familiar crunch, crunch, crunch. It made me smile. (He always loved to eat!) Then I heard him walk toward the other room, wheezing as he went, so he could use the litter box.  I was trying to listen to Spirit, and all I could hear was Solomon. Some of his sounds were normal cat sounds — the eating, the sound of him walking around in his litter box — and some, like the wheezing, weren’t.  The mixture of normal and not-normal didn’t make the decision any clearer for me.  So I kept listening.  What floated to the surface next was a line in a book I’d been reading: Live a life of gratitude to God. This line had captured my attention earlier in the week, and I’d been journeying with it, turning it over in my mind and on my tongue, sitting with it in the mornings, making it a matter of prayer. What does it mean to live a life of gratitude, really? Does it mean there’s no room for suffering and sadness? I didn’t — and still don’t — know. These are questions I’d been asking in prayer, alongside asking Christ to teach me what it means to live this kind of life.  Live a life of gratitude.  Those words surfaced as I sat in our darkened living room that night. And I saw, in the context of Solomon, that it meant he belonged to God. In my mind’s eye, I could see myself lifting Solomon in my arms and raising him up to God. He’d been entrusted to our care for 16 years, but that didn’t mean he belonged to us. As a living creature, he belonged to God. Live a life of gratitude.  So I gave thanks to God for the gift of Sollie’s life, for the gift of caring for him all these years, for the gift of knowing him. And the next morning, when I had a few quiet moments by myself with Solomon to say goodbye, I sat on the floor next to him and thanked him, too. On the day he and Kirk met 16 years ago, he’d made it very clear that he chose Kirk. He also, that same day, made it clear he was choosing Diva for Kirk to adopt as well. He had chosen them. And so I thanked him for that choosing — for choosing them and for letting me love him too, even though he didn’t choose me (something he often made clear to me over the years!). I’m grateful for Solomon, and I’m thankful for the chance to be learning, bit by bit, even through his life, what it means to live a life of gratitude. What does living that kind of life — a life of gratitude — mean to you? What, today, are you thankful for? With gratitude also for you, Christianne