Charles and Two Cats

“You’ve got a new cat,” I said upon seeing a beautiful black-and-white mixed feline—almost like the cat was dressed in a tuxedo.

With the marvelous sense that animals have, Tommy somehow knew when there was a newly opened slot in Charles’ house and heart, and came over and made friends.

“Yeah… beatinst thing I ever did see,” our former neighbor and longtime friend, Charles, exclaimed. His eyelids thickened and he swallowed hard. (I looked up beatinst later—I’d heard him use it before, a southern term for “most remarkable and unusual.”)

“When Molly died, this’un came over and curled up on the grave I made for Molly, then came in and slept with me on the bed,” he said slowly, pausing when the lump in his throat overcame his speech. Charles will be 90 next spring.

“Molly died?” my husband and I both asked at the same time, saddened and ashamed that we had totally missed this important passing for Charles. For months we had discussed who would be more bereft if the other died first. If Charles died first, he had made it known to us that he wanted Molly put to sleep and buried in his casket with him. He wondered if we thought that would be possible. We assured him we thought it could be done. If Molly died first, we knew Charles’ heart would again be broken.

So Molly died at the foot of Charles’ bed this past Father’s Day. Certainly Charles had been a “father” to Molly and Molly a child for Charles. “I bought her a casket, made a grave and a stone out there along the drive,” he motioned with his head. The dear man was nearly blind, now on oxygen 24 hours a day. “Gets kind of monotonous” he said of the tank, “but things could be a lot worse.”

Molly had seen him through a lot of “worse,” including the death of his wife about 10 years ago from Alzheimer’s and a heart condition. Many a time when we’d go to visit, Molly would be curled up beside him on his bed, his armchair footrest, or on his outdoor glider. Charles would caress Molly’s head endlessly.

But now Molly was gone. I asked what the new cat’s name was. “I just call him ‘Tommy,’” he said with a laugh. Charles explained that Tommy had moved in with someone who lived at a neighbor’s house, but then the cat stayed when that person moved out. “He used to come over and try to play with Molly, but Molly would bat him,” Charles explained. I could see the purposeful swats in my mind.

With the marvelous sense that animals have, Tommy somehow knew when there was a newly opened slot in Charles’ house and heart, and came over and made friends. We were happy that Tommy moved in when the time was right.

We also marveled that Someone was watching out for Charles’ needs. We prayed for Charles almost every day, even though my husband’s demanding work schedule currently didn’t allow us to visit nearly as often as we should or wanted to.

Tommy had been an answer to prayers we hadn’t dared to pray.

Months later, in retelling the story of how Tommy came to his bed the day Molly died, Charles said simply, “It was a miracle.”

Cats do seem to sense who or what is in special need of their attention. When my father was moved to a nursing home shortly before he died, the nursing home cat came and visited him. My farmer father wasn’t a big cat person (he felt they were fine in the barn), but he obliged by petting the cat. A man I know who is currently undergoing chemo treatments every other week is comforted by his cat sitting on his lap as he rests after treatment.

At our church we’re observing a “bless the animal” Sunday on October 5, which falls near the traditional Catholic feast day for St. Francis of Assisi, who is frequently depicted with animals. Francis wrote a “Canticle of the Creatures,” an ode to God’s living things. “All praise to you, Oh Lord, for all these brother and sister creatures.” Besides being a worship service that most children enjoy, “bless the animal” Sunday connects with all those who love animals. Animals are a wonderful part of God’s creation—the closest creatures to humans.

I’m grateful for these beatinest things we learn from the animals—and friends—in our lives.

What have your learned or observed from animals? I would love to hear your animal stories for possible use in a future column. Send to me Another Way, 1251 Virginia Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22802 or. Or comment on the Facebook page for Another Way Newspaper Column.

Posted 10/2/2014 7:00:00 AM

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