I had a black & white cat named Stanley who a few years ago died of an autoimmune disease called F.I.P. It’s something that a cat can contract from another cat simply by touching noses, among other ways. It comes on them fast too; one minute they’re here, the next they’re gone. I’m not sure how Stanley got this disease. To my understanding, it could’ve been something he had for a long time, then all of the sudden something triggered it to react in his body. Actually, the vet didn’t know for sure if in fact it was F.I.P. but they had a good hunch. The scary thing is, I have another cat named Bella, who has been alive and well ever since.
Recently, Bella will have these random sneezing episodes where she sounds like one of those sprinklers that shoots water rapidly in one direction, then comes back a bit slower to where it began. You know the one I’m talking about. The thing is, Stanley used to do that. So naturally, I’m a little concerned for Bella.
Last night while I was sleeping, I woke up to her sneezing again. And a few minutes later she jumped into the bed, walked right up next to my face as if to say “pet me,” and then laid at my side. I laid awake for awhile thinking about how death makes us afraid.
I started thinking about my grandpa who died on Feb 9, 2006 of cancer. I flew into Chicago to go be with my family when he was nearing his death, and on the drive to his house where he was in hospice, I was in the car with my parents and we got a call that he had passed.
A short time later at his funeral I remember getting the opportunity to say a few words. I don’t remember much about what I said other than something to the effect of I wished I had taken more time to visit with him, to garden with him and spend time doing some of the things he enjoyed. Afterwards, a good family friend said to me, “Were you trying to make us cry?”
Last night while I was laying awake thinking about death, and petting Bella, I pictured myself back at my grandpa’s funeral. I imagined what I wish I would’ve said:
“One time I was over at my grandma and grandpa’s house, and I remember grandma saying to grandpa, ‘Darrell will you take out the trash?’ He replied, ‘Kiss your what grandma?’ My cousins and I got a good laugh out of that one. I have always liked cars and so I remember a long time ago he used to drive this old red Ford sedan (I think it was the Ford Fairmont…it had to have been made in the late 70’s/early 80’s). I remember he liked to garden. I remember that every Christmas he’d put the stick-on-bows from his gifts on his bald head and we’d all get a good kick out of it. I remember his shins were permanently bruised and I’d always thought it was weird. I remember he liked to cut bananas up into a bowl with milk (or something like that) and it always grossed me out. But the thing that I remember most about my grandpa was that he seemed to always smile. And his eyes were very warm. He was always so gentle. I’m sure grandma and all the aunts & uncles could tell stories of when he wasn’t so gentle (we all have that side to us), but I don’t remember ever seeing his. I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be. And I think that’s an important thing for us to remember today. That it’s better to forgive and love; to remember the good we see in people around us. And to rest in our faith that one day we will see our husband, our father, our friend, my grandpa again. And to know that until then, he is always with us in our memories. And one day when my future wife says, ‘Honey, will you take out the trash?’ my response every now and then will be, ‘Kiss your what grandma?’ And we’ll have a good laugh and remember my grandpa’s comforting smile and warm eyes.”
While I laid in bed thinking of all this, tears came to my eyes; they are again now as I type. Partly because I missed my grandpa, and partly because I was scared for Bella. I said a few words to my grandpa, hoping that he was somehow listening from heaven as I fell back to sleep.
It’s ok that death makes us afraid. But hopefully it challenges us to live good lives. And to remember the good in people…and cats. And to appreciate the time that we are given.