Is a meeting place
Is truth usurping desire
Is Submitting to God’s Will
My previous posts have been rather heavy lately. I mean talking about mental illness and grief are not the easiest of subjects. Today I am going to tell you about my cat. Yes, my cat. His name is Hershey ( or
Hershilious, Hershey-Boy, Old Man, and from time to time Momma Cat.) He is an all black american short hair and before I adopted him never thought of myself as a cat person.
He came into my life through one of my best friends, someone I consider my sister. It was a sudden request, as I had come up to see her before we headed up to see her parents. Hershey came along for the ride as it was evident that the cat would have to go from her house. We were hopeful that the cat could stay with her parents. Upon arriving there, we discovered the answer was no. In a painful episode the poor cat ended up in a local animal shelter and we were able to get him out again. I found myself on my drive back to Miami with a mewling, confused cat in my backseat.
It had been years since I had a pet. I also had no clue what to do with a cat. I was not sure how this would work. Hershey had been rather stand offish in the past. It took time for him to warm up to me and his new surroundings. We just did not know what to make of one another.
Now it is almost seven years later and two of us are quite a pair. We both have gotten older. Hershey now has some grey sprinkled throughout his fur coat. His gait is slower and his playfulness is limited to short spurts. He is my constant companion, friend and comforter. He seeks me out and it is not always because the food dish is empty. There is nothing better than waking up to the sound of loud purring or feeling him cuddle up against me.
Hershey has played a huge part in my journey in health. When I was in the losing weight phase, he was my cheerleader ( even if he did not understand what it was I was doing) during my late night workouts. He has taught me about love. He has been witness to some really ugly moments. Times when he himself ran off to hide. In these moments I have have seen first hand how my outbursts can be harmful. Seeing this reflection in my cat helped to change me from being a person who lived in anger to a more loving person.
Hershey taught me about grace. ( Yes, I went there) as he would seek me out later on after an outburst and want to be petted or simply cuddle. It was his way of showing me love. I believe that our pets can teach us so much about love and forgiveness. He has helped me to grow in trusting myself around people. So much of my journey has been learning to love. First to love myself enough to get healthy. Second to not only love those in my community but to also love them well. Being a cat mom to Hershey has helped to open my heart.
Hershey is up there in age, around 20 years old in human years which makes him in his nineties in cat years. At times he looks around confused. He has a slight limp due to arthritis in left back leg. Recently, when I rearranged my furniture and moved his bed, he did not sleep in it for weeks. Choosing instead the comfort of my closet, where he often seeks refuge during a storm.
He can be rather onery too. Mewowing at me if that food dish is just a bit too low or when I come home after being gone for a long time. I love my cat and I am not ashamed to admit it. Even if I am fulfilling the cliché of a single women and the cat she loves too much. But it is alas the truth. What can I say but that I love my cat and he loves me.
Grief is something I have dealt with throughout my life. Not always well or at times even at all. Let’s face it, grief is rather ungraceful isn’t it? Last week I wrote a post in honor of my mommy who passed away twenty-two years ago. After losing her, my grandfather Pops, passed away after a battle with an ephesigial tumor two years later. Then when I was sixteen my birth father succumbed to lung cancer. It was a lot of loss in a short period of time. My relationships with all three people were so different and therefore was too my grief.
I also was a teenager trying to figure out who I was in the midst of it. Not to mention being part of a family who dealt with grieving so differently from each other. I went into myself. Eating and cutting myself off from allowing people getting too close to me. In my grief I became an angry, overweight, unhappy mess. My aunt found a therapist whom I did not like. I do not think it was her so much but more so I was not ready for therapy. At this time in my life I did not know Jesus. In fact I blamed him and had walked away from anything to do with God. I wanted no part of it. Shortly after my mommy passed away we stopped attending church.
I can only speak of my own grief journey. One that I am still on all these years later. It was once I understood that I could not carry the weight of this grief alone. I needed Jesus. As my relationship with Christ grew, the ache that my heart carried became less. The discovery that in the midst of pain and grief, Jesus is right there with me. In the anger aimed at Him. He is there. In the sadness, He is there.
He is also there in moments of love and laughter. He is there in the midst of joy.
Yes, Joy. There is still joy even in the journey of grief. Grief is indeed a journey. It is not a straight line to it. Not everyone checks off all the stages of grief one after another. There can be moments of laughter shortly after death. There can be bouts of sadness and reflection years after someone is gone.
Grief is an unpredictable animal. Rearing its head in my life in the most inopportune times. When I am feeling good and happy. Suddenly, I will look at the calendar and realize that it is once again the anniversary of mommy’s death. Or going through my paperwork and coming across my copies of their death certificates. Documents that clearly spell out how it came to be that they are no longer around. It is a rather cold summation of the end of a life. Boxes neatly filled out or checked off. Doctor’s signature at the bottom. Now it sits in my file cabinet. Taken out from time to time in middle of a cleaning session or needing some kind of information.
It brings up all sorts of questions, what if they had not died and were still around? Who would I have been if they had not died? How different would my life had been? Would I be the person who God intended for me to become if they had not died?
These are all fair questions. Ones that are not to meant to be answered. The truth is there are so many scenarios and all of them hypothetical. They are gone. I pray that they knew the Lord and hope to see them again. I cannot live my life in the land of what ifs. I have to live in the here and now. Sometimes that means leaning into the pain. Other times it is remembering a small, sweet moment and smiling.
Part of grieving is telling their stories. Family gatherings often retread the old family stories. Stories that we have heard throughout our lifetimes. That with each retelling change ever so slightly. Telling these stories is part of the joy, the remembering, even feeling the loss a bit more than usual. This is healing.
In this time in my life, grief is more bittersweet. There is so much that was missed. My sisters and I grew up. My niece only knows Grandma Joyce from old photos and stories. My sister Michelle got married with out our mother being there to fuss over her. In grieving I acknowledge that they are missed. That they are still part of my heart. The one’s we lose are no longer with us to hug and kiss. To talk with and laugh with. They are however part of the story of who I am today. Both in their lives and in their deaths. It has all shaped me.
Through it all Jesus carries me, strengthens me and above all loves in in the messiness of grieving. Lean into Jesus, lean into the grief, allow it to wash over you. There is no shortcut through this, no pill that will make it all better. It is simply there. It is messy, hard and painful but you can get through the darkest days to those not so dark days. Followed by even lighter days until one day it just does not hurt as much. There will always be an ache for those who have been lost but there will also be joy. There is is so much joy! I have so much joy in my own life while remembering the ones no longer with me. It is possible.