I walked in, carrying my work backpack and was confused by what I saw. She hovered above him at a 90-degree angle, straining to tug his leg and tail. While she called his name over and over I said to her, “Ruth he isn’t responding. What happened?” I dropped my backpack on the kitchen counter and with dread looked over the sink at the scene from a safe distance. The cat was dead! I didn’t realize it, but I was in the initial stages of freaking out.
She said, “I heard a noise and thought Scott (the human) fell off the ladder.”
I ran to the porch and hollered for Scott, who was re-screening the porch, “Scott, come quick!”
He yelled back, “What’s the matter?”
“It’s the cat!” I nearly shrieked, giving voice to my freaking out.
“The cat?” he replied. I could tell his alarm dropped considerably. He was most likely thinking that something had happened to his mom. We met on the screened in (or almost screened in) porch, and you know how when you get nervous you can laugh inappropriately? I’m embarrassed to say I couldn’t contain the bubbly laugh that erupted as I said, “I think the cat is dead!”
Without much of an expression, Scott finds his way to the cat and shoos the dog away. “Take her,” he directs me.
I grab Bella, our 15 pound, non-shedding, Shih Tzu, and maintain a safe distance (again) by standing in the living room, peering over the couch. I clutch the dog and watch as Scott gets on the floor, strokes the cat and looks for a pulse.
Ruth, who has been standing over the cat the entire time, goes and gets water to sprinkle on his face. Even after a dousing, the yellow eyes remained open and vacant. Scott pronounces that the cat is gone.
I’m standing afar, thinking this can’t be happening! It was so sudden and shocking! Guilt creeps in as I acknowledge that all I ever did was complain about the cat. I complained about the tufts of white fur strewn all around the house and layered on the cloth couches and dining room chairs. One day I was baking and clumps were on the stove top – ick, gag, yuck! I scheduled the cleaning service to come more often to keep up with it and even took him, for the first time ever, to get brushed out at a groomer. He did not like me for that.
The cat was big, (almost 30 pounds) plus what looked like another 10 pounds of fur. He was good and kept to himself, so he wasn’t a bother, BUT HIS HAIR was getting to me and I complained about it every chance I could get. In fact, I had just finished complaining to my friend at lunch, before I walked in the door to find him dead!
I’m mortified to admit that as I was standing there repeating aloud, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this!” in a guilt-ridden stupor, a Scripture verse floated through my head: Delight yourself in The Lord and he will give you your heart’s desire. My freaking out and my guilt swelled!
The story we get out of Ruth is that she heard the dog and cat running around and then heard a loud noise. Since it wasn’t Scott falling off the ladder she got up to see what it was and found the cat. She believes the cat ran into the wall and just died. Yes, you read that right! Is that not tragically funny, or what?
We have no other explanation and our only witness is the dog. We know Bella has a history of cleaning house with other animals (that’s another blog), so in my mind she is totally suspect! But we will never know. Ruth believes they were playing, but the cat never wanted anything to do with the dog. I don’t think it was playing as much as it could have been fleeing!
I call our Vet and get their Sunday recording for the emergency Vet. Scott stuffs the nearly 30 pound cat into a cat carrier that would accommodate a 15 pound animal comfortably. (How he traveled 2 days by car from Colorado in it was amazing to me.)
While Scott is off disposing of the body Ruth and I chat, or rather, I’m still freaking out saying, “I can’t believe this!” and “Oh my gosh!” In between my incredulous hysterics our conversation turns. Initially Ruth stated matter-of-factly that things happen with animals all the time, and what are you gonna do? She said he was Pat’s cat and wouldn’t have anything to do with her until Pat died.
In the course of our chat I said, “I’m so sorry, I know he’s your last link to Pat.” My guilt pokes at me again as the woman who never cries, can barely get the following words out because she’s so choked up with emotion.
She manages to say between tears, “He was so happy here. He hasn’t been happy since he left Chicago four years ago. I’m so glad he got to experience it here.” Oh man, just torture me now! I felt as if someone had stuck a pitchfork in my chest!
I asked if Ruth was happy here too and she nodded and said yes, which was heart-warming and assuaged a bit of my emotional distress. I said, “You’re going to miss him aren’t you?” and she nodded again with new tears streaming down her cheeks. He was just sitting on her lap the day before. It was rare for him to be out during the day and she was petting him; both were quite happy and content.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I wrestled with my lack of remorse, yet would never have wanted the cat to die! He was only 8 years old and I figured we’d have him for a long time.
Our Community Group was studying a book about feelings and that week we conveniently covered the chapters of guilt and shame! As I tossed and turned I remembered that guilt comes as a result of something you ‘did’. So, I began to review my actions toward the cat.
· When he let me, I’d pet him and gave him affection. He was a beautiful cat.
In conclusion, I chose to operate above my feelings of inconvenience and intolerance. While I shared them via complaints to anyone who would listen, I didn’t share them with Ruth or even the cat. My heart may not have been pure, but my action toward them was. Since guilt is a response to things that you ‘do’, it dawned on me that I had never hurt the cat. My actions were above reproach and while I wish I could say my heart was too, in this case it was actions that mattered.
Every part of my base nature, in this case the selfish complaining, must become less and the loving must become more. Once again God has graciously given me a new picture of what that looks like. And I know He offers me holy fulfillment when I can do just what He did for me.
So, the cat is gone, but he has left a valuable life lesson. And for that I am very grateful.
is what we feel when we actually do something wrong. Guilt is always about behavior. Through guilt our hearts confront behavior, and behavior, in turn, exposes the state of our hearts. Guilt is relational. It speaks to the pain we have caused ourselves, others or God and drives us to forgiveness.
is humility, it tells me that I am limited and that I need other’s help. Living with healthy shame is living within your appropriate authority, it shows us how deficient we are without others and God to help us live fully.
creates self-rejection. We believe we should hide who we are, believing that we are defective and worthless. Unlike guilt that gives us freedom, toxic shame increases the bondage of hopelessness. It tells us we are never free. It tries to work for forgiveness – to make us perfect. It tries to make us earn what is a gift from another’s heart.