Rabbi Lawrence Kushner once wrote: “…people chosen to be messengers of the Most High rarely even know that they are His messengers.” (Honey from the Rock, p. 68). So, too, with animals.
Our cat Athena was diagnosed with cancer on December 27. When asked if we wanted to put her down, my wife opted to bring her home. Thus began the lessons.
Athena was an extraverted cat, a rarity since cats tend to be aloof. So Athena had already taught us a few lessons about unconditional love.
Mind you, I have been privileged to accompany several people on their final journey, my mother included. All were wonderful teachers. I suppose because she was a cat with an uncomplicated life, Athena’s lessons were straight forward.
First of all, she reminded me of living life a day at a time and to cherish simple pleasures. She would rise each morning, slowly walk to a living room window, and rest in the sun for an hour or so. In the evening, she would find my wife and sit quietly in her lap, watching “Downton Abbey” and the like.
While my wife was out of town to a workshop, Athena would find me and sit in my lap watching Indiana basketball or lie in the crook of my arm on the floor with me, watching the likes of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”. She reminded me that life is rich when kept simple. She reminded me too that there is much I take for granted.
She reminded me that simple presence is a great gift. Too often I get caught up in doing for others and not simply being with them. With Athena, her presence was a gift.
I have read about “Green Theology” and the spirituality of taking care of earth. Athena in her own gentle way reminded me that not only do I need to take care of God’s creation. I also need to listen and learn.
Reflection: Have pets and/or nature enriched your spiritual journey in any way?
I have had wonderful experiences with my pets. After my husband passed away, they (4 dogs – Rusty, Mia, Huckleberry, & Barkley) were there for me. Whenever I would be overcome with uncontrollable crying, Huckleberry would push his way into my arms. The others would come and sit by me. They all grieved Greg’s dying in their own way and, immediately after his passing, they all were sick. Each one missed Greg coming home every day and greeting him at the back door. They all missed their morning treats so I had to bring myself to do it – although it was extremely hard – I could not deprieve them of their treats! So, of course, when each one passed away, I grieved their loss. As Scripture says (I can’t tell you the exact Psalm), “Leave your grief at the grave.” I have done so and now have 4 new pets and I added a wonderful cat, Geronimo, who thinks he is one of the pack!!
Thanks for writing this.