Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Death of Our Cat


Nellie had been missing for several days, and my wife has described what that was like better than I could on her blog. Beautiful and oftentimes temperamental, Nellie was a faithful companion for almost 12 years, living with us through five moves, two dogs, two children, and another cat.

After the removal of a tumor, she spent most of her time this summer lounging around in the carport. We knew her time was limited. So when she went missing we figured she had gone off to die. We were right. The neighbors found her body by their fence. I knew retrieving her body would be bad, but after several days of decay, it was worse than anything I could have imagined.

After moving her body and digging her grave in hard ground through tough roots, sweating and fighting off mosquitoes, I couldn't help but think about the horror of death. Yes, death is a part of life. It's "natural." But only in the wake of the Fall, when the world had become subject to evil and death, could the word "natural" be used for the word "death." God does not intend the putrid horror I saw and smelled when I came across Nellie's body today. God does not intend the heartache and grief I see in my wife and children, even over a pet.

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his servants" (Psalm 116:13 BCP).

Can the same be said of an old, beloved calico cat dying alone by a fence?

15 comments:

Bill Carroll said...

Blessings to you and your family, Bryan.

We buried our daughter's hamster in Sewanee, and it was her first real experience with grief. We now have four cats, and I can only imagine how that would be.

I am convinced that every creature is precious in God's sight. And I look forward to a new heaven and a new earth where death and dying are no more. I see no reason why animals can't be part of the general resurrection. God made them for a reason, and they don't sin. Unlike us, they just do what they were made to do.

Tim Cravens said...

My condolences. As someone with two cats currently and who has grown up with cats who have died, I can appreciate your loss.

I believe that the victory won by Christ through his Passion and glorious Resurrection results in the redemption of all creation, not just human beings who are saved. I believe that your cat will know the life of the resurrection through Christ, and I believe that while St. Thomas Aquinas got most things right, his belief that animals do not share in eternal life was wrong.

May you be comforted in your loss.

+++JN1034 said...

May Nellie's memory be eternal.

Perhaps this may interest you:

Greek Orthodox Funeral Service (Trisagion) for Animals and All Creatures

Christopher said...

But God does intend that we honor the fleshly creatures created by his Word, as you have done in providing burial. Like the others here, I believe Christ's resurrection is hope for the whole of creation. May she enjoy God forever according to her estate.

Bryan Owen said...

Thanks to each one of you for your kind and theologically grounded words. You put it so well Christopher - our Lord's resurrection is, indeed, "hope for the whole of creation." Thanks be to God!

JC Fremont said...

Two autumns ago we lost our beloved 18-year-old feline companion to heart trouble. We were devastated. A friend sent us a sweet children's book called "Cat Heaven" (by Cynthia Rylant). It was a help...along with the shelter kitten we shortly adopted. We have no doubt that God cares for every creature.

Bryan Owen said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, JC. And also for sharing the book by Cynthia Rylant. It looks like it might be a great way to help my kids process their grief.

Jonathan said...

Yes, friend, God does regard the death of a sweet calico cat. I've buried more than one beastie in my lifetime, and they are all hard to let go of. Yet I commend them to the care of St. Francis, who I am sure will guide them to the right place.

Prayers and kindness to you.

Jendi said...

My condolences, Bryan. She looks like she was a beautiful little gal. What would heaven be without our animal companions?

Joe Rawls said...

My condolences too. We had Shadrach, our 12-year old Lab-Ridgeback mix, euthanized last October when his kidneys failed. His death was made easier by the fact that we had come to believe in the resurrection of all living things, not just humans. It is most gratifying to see that we are not alone in thinking this way.

Marcia King said...

years ago I heard a sermon about a woman who lost a beloved horse. She cried and cried. Many years later she died and went to heaven. As she walked the green pastures, she was surprised to see the horse gallop up to her and nuzzle her face. The woman's first thought was, "I shouldn't have cried so hard." God made all of creation and pronounced it "good."

Somehow I think our only problem may be not enough room on our laps for pets like Nellie. She may have died alone but she was welcomed into the heavenly realms.

Blessings to you and your family, Brian. I've lost a few cats before (one right after Katrina and I focused a lot of my grief for that whole situation into crying for that loss) May our Lord comfort you.

BillyD said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Father. Losing a pet isn't easy, and I'll say a prayer for y'all tonight.

Bryan Owen said...

I appreciate the prayers and support, BillyD.

Robert F said...

Our precious cat Gracie died on January 12. She was sweet and affectionate and smart and loved just being around us. My wife is taking it especially hard, but we both believe that God is holding her in his loving hands and that we will see her one day again if we cling to him.

Bryan Owen said...

My sincere condolences to you and your family, Robert F. Our pets are more than just "pets". They become genuine members of the family, and thus "persons" in a generously expanded meaning of that word. And so our hearts are broken when they die. But the faith we share in the One who died and was raised from the dead reassures us that God's intentions for new and eternal life are not limited to human beings. God so loved the world - every creature, great and small - so much, that He sent His only Son. Thanks be to God!