Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Quietness After the Death of a Household Friend

Mom with Cutie0001

I don't put a lot of personal "stuff" on here that doesn't relate to preaching. (The  only two things I can think of is when our church was vandalized and a family picture accompanying my 100th blog entry). But there is a heaviness around the Habig household this week. My wife is not a pet person, but after reading her MySpace entry, I am feeling very reflective.

For the past 15 years a stray cat named Cutie has been a part of our family. Our youngest son Trevor (now 22 and engaged) found a tiny abandoned "runt" kitten. She was so small I could hold her in the cup of my hand. We had gotten rid of our only other previous cat who was a male and fairly mean & destructive. But Trevor REALLY wanted this kitten. He said, "I want something smaller than me to love." That did it.

In Kansas she earned her keep by presenting us with a regular parade of dead mice that she caught.(Also less welcome birds & rabbits).  She would display them on the back stairs and then after we had congratulated her, she would take them away. The funniest story was one time when we saw her on the deck. She had a mouse in her mouth held by the head, the rest of the mouse's body dangling down, but she wouldn't/hadn't bitten down and killed the mouse. It was wiggling and struggling to get free. She kept playing with it, swinging it back & forth and batting it with her paws. (Maybe she caught the streak of sadism from me?) After about five minutes of this either the mouse got free or she dropped it, but the mouse scurried away and Cutie lost her prey.

When we moved her to Oregon from Kansas 8 years ago it was very traumatic for her. Two long days cooped up in a pet carrier in the back of our mini-van, plus a day in temporary quarters and then a day while we moved into the house did not make her a happy camper. But she soon adjusted. I still laugh at how furtive we were in sneaking her into a motel in Utah that did not allow pets. But at the end of December we were not willing to leave her out in a freezing van. (The above picture is of Loretta's mom from their first visit to Oregon in Feb. 2000 shortly after we moved here.)

We came home from church this past Sunday and she was "snoozing" in her sleeping box in the laundry room. I kept going back and forth through the laundry room to the garage and suddenly I began to sense that something was wrong...she had not moved a bit, which was not like her. A quick check confirmed that she had died--I presume--Saturday night in her sleep. I had a Bible study on that morning's sermon to write for our small groups, I was teaching a baptism class at 6:00, we were doing a lot of Internet searching on a camper we were purchasing, but we had to find time to make a run to take her body to the pet crematorium. Not a relaxing Sunday afternoon.

It is a bit strange. I have never had a pet die (besides fish when I was a kid and a rabbit 4-H project that Ryan had). The house is definitely quieter. This morning when I went out to get the paper I expected her to be there insisting on coming inside for her 60-second greeting and walk around "her domain" and then demanding to be let out again. When I glance over, habitually, to check her food, water & litter, there is no longer anything there. No need for a litter box, food bowl or water bowl.

The biggest sadness, however, comes from this being the end of an era...the end of the childhood of our kids. Ryan was 9 & Trevor was 7 when Cutie came into our lives. Technically she was Trevor's pet, but as Trevor grew, she became more everyone's pet/companion. Even Ryan who was allergic to her would sit and pet her occasionally. She was a constant, even after the boys had gone away to school and Ryan had gotten married. Now Trevor is getting married in June and "his" cat has died. The boys' childhood is officially done.

There is just a sadness. I know that it is heightened by the fact that we are expecting the death of Loretta's grandmother any day. She will be 100 on April 6, but we are hoping/praying that she doesn't have to suffer that long. She is deaf and absolutely miserable physically and so it seems cruel to hope that she makes it to 100. Edith is a godly woman and wants to be home with her Lord and husband. The combination of knowing we will likely soon be making a funeral trip to Kansas City combined with the death of this household friend makes it sad around the Habig household today.

Thanks for simply listening. Cal.

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