The last three weeks have been some of the hardest in my life. I can’t believe I’m even writing this. My family and I are forced to say goodbye to our beloved Henry.
We were celebrating a birthday party here at home. Half way through the evening from an upstairs bedroom Henry appeared on the upper stair landing with his sleepy eyes and bright pink party ribbon tied to his red collar. I tried to coax him downstairs but got only a brush of his whiskers against the back of my hand. That was the last time I touched him.
After the party we cleaned up and fell in our beds. My daughter thought Henry was on our bed while we thought he was on hers. In spite of how very careful we were about watching him and how he hid from company upstairs most of the night, somehow he snuck out during the party and no one noticed.
The next morning we realized he was gone. How hauntingly empty the house felt without him.
For two weeks, we searched the neighborhood calling him, put up signs galore, combed the neighborhood at night with flashlights, received calls about other look-a-like cats, and cried more tears than we knew we had. Some indoor cats who get outside by accident in our neighborhood are recovered. The ones who aren’t have a very high likelihood of falling prey to coyotes since in our area they roam through the night as phantom-like assassins.
I kept envisioning somewhere in the woods his little red collar with the pink party bow tied to it and my cell number engraved on his little tag. It felt like my little child had been abducted. After ten days of inconsolable grief, I finally resigned my panic and despair to the Lord. In my helplessness I had no choice if I was to stay sane. In my mind, I forced myself to visualize picking him up from the grass and surrendering his petite body to the outstretched arms of Christ. Christ was very real and took him lovingly and held him close. I knew then that little Henry was safe whatever had happened. I really didn’t want to know.
I know some cats come back after long periods. I know they have instincts to survive outside. I know people rescue stray cats. I know God can do anything. And who knows what will be, but that morning we awoke without him, I felt that his spirit was no longer here. One of my daughters says she purposefully imagines him having been found at some old lady’s house who is now taking good care of him. That sounds good. I’ll imagine that, too.
I am so very thankful for the two years we had with him. Some of the best of my life. A special creature sent from the Lord can do wonders that only those who knew him can understand. Upon returning home, the first thing we’d say was, “Where is he?” and eagerly go find him. Henry was as gentle as a lamb. He never bit or scratched anyone. He wasn’t just a cat. This little creature carried a unique spirit. He enhanced our relationships. He made us smile. He made us laugh. He brought us joy.
On my dresser I keep his favorite chewed-up toy, a 2-inch brown-and-white puppy whose arms used to clip on my daughter’s book bag. Over and over again Henry would chase it under the living room chair and then sit crouched staring at it until someone moved the chair and retrieved it for him. Our other male cat, Oliver, cried loudly for several days after Henry vanished and repeatedly brought the toy puppy to us dropping it at our feet.
When we let go we must have something else to hold on to. And the One thing that cannot be taken from us is the Lord. That’s why we have to hold closest to Him.
The Lord gave us Henry as a gift. And the Lord has taken him home.
We don’t understand. We don’t have to. But by His grace and strength, we will trust Him with this sorrow.
Thank you, God, for Henry.
And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Peter 4:12, 13
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
More of my lessons in growth I share in my book, My Journey Through the Cross, which can be found at my book website, AuthorWebsite.