The Lord awoke me at 4am, last Thursday. I didn’t have to pee, but I did have an eyelash poking at my eyeball, so I slowly made my way down the steps toward the bathroom. After a quick flush underneath the warm faucet tap water, I dried my face, stepped back into the hallway and glanced toward the dark living room. There I saw Pumpkin, our family tabby cat, sprawled out in a deep stretch; no different than the thousand times I’d seem him asleep in this pose before. In the past, he would hop up and lead the way toward the kitchen where his favorite treats were hidden in a low cupboard. I walked into the living room expecting him to pounce up. A tiny smirk lifted my right dimple at the old goofy furball. Just as I was about to speak, I flipped on the soft glow lamp, glanced down at my longtime pet and instantly knew.
Pumpkin had passed away in the night. His lifeless body lay there. His eyes were frozen open in an unfocused stare. His mouth was slightly ajar, as if suspended mid yawn. I was petrified. My heart lept into my throat. After what seemed like an eternity and an instant all at once, I nudged the back of his head with my foot, hoping to rouse him from some sort of weird sleep. But instead of his head bobbing, his whole body shifted across the carpet. Rigor mortis had already set his lifeless muscles. My heart sank. I dropped to my knees and rubbed a hand over the fur of his little head. His ears were cold. He was gone. My little furry son–whom I’d raised as part of my family; older than both Jordynn and Isaiah–had died.
Instead of breaking down, I prayed. My fingers wrapped around his little face. I bowed my head, and spoke.
“Lord, thank you for the 16 years of companionship you gave us with him. I’m grateful for the fun times. I’m grateful that he watched over Jordynn and Isaiah through the years. I don’t have a clue where the souls of pets rest, but if you could make an exception, please take care of my Pumpkin. I will praise you in the good and the bad times, Lord. This is a bad time. I’m gonna love you anyway. Goodbye buddy.”
Thursday afternoon was rough. My wife and I sat the kids down after school. I gingerly announced the news, then waited. Ten year old Isaiah, burst into laughter, thinking it was the best joke of all time…until his seventeen year old sister Dominque, broke down and sobbed. She was just shy of two years old, when I’d brought Pumpkin home as a kitten. Thirteen year old Jordynn paled. The youngest of our two daughters, she sat stoic on the couch, wringing her hands and desperately staving off tears. My baby had known Pumpkin her whole life. Twenty-three year old Tomas was the rock of the bunch. My son stood in the archway between the hallway and livingroom like a stone tower. Only his glum expression betrayed his heartache.
As I embraced Dominque and tried to comfort her, the air within the livingroom split with the worse sound imaginable. Little Isaiah’s world had just shattered. My youngest son wailed. He ran for his mother and curled into a ball, as she cradled him on the loveseat. I’ll never forget the sound of his cries. All I wanted to do was take away the pain. He was completely devastated…and I could do nothing to patch his world back together. Pumpkin had been his living stuffed animal. They’d shared food, against Isaiah’s wishes of course. They had fallen asleep together. They had played alongside each other. Isaiah’s life had immediately changed, and he knew things would never be the same again.
After some time, we gathered in a circle and prayed for our beloved cat. We said our final goodbyes. Isaiah cried long into the night. Then, there was the silence of mourning.
Tomas recently asked me why death hurts.
“Do you think we’re selfish because we want our loved one with us?” he asked. “Do you think we don’t really believe we’ll ever see them again?”
Friends, I’ll tell you what I told my son. My belief isn’t necessarily applicable to my deceased cat, but more-so to loved ones in general. The bible tells us that every man is born with an inherited knowledge of God, deep within. I don’t care if you claim there is no God. Deep down within your spirit, you know God exists, because He put it in you. You may not recognize God, but that doesn’t make Him any less real.
Along with that, I believe that we all have a knowledge of death’s finale. When someone dies, we know we’ll never see them walking this earth, again. We can thank Adam and Eve for ushering death into the world, through sin. We feel it. We know it to be true. Why do you think people spend billions of dollars every year on creams, products, equipment and procedures in a futile attempt to retain youth? We fear death’s sting.
I think the pain of death hurts because, in our humanity, we will miss our loved ones, even if spiritually we hope their passing means no more pain for them. We don’t want to give them up. We don’t want to hear statements such as, “His time was up,” or “God called her home.” Although it is true that we all have an appointed time, deep down, we really don’t want to consider the implications of that painful truth. Some funerals are called, “Home Going Ceremonies” and toted as times of celebration at the passing of a loved one. None of us naturally celebrate the passing of our beloved. In the flesh, we want them around, because to be without them is painful…for us.
What if you knew, without a shadow of doubt, that when we died we would wake up in the perfection of heaven, and in the presence of Jesus Christ himself? You gotta get this, now: what if you knew this to be true? If your Mother were going to die of cancer today, leaving behind a horrible 6-month battle, would you still want her to stay here for your benefit or go where she would be at peace, without the troubles we still have to deal with here? That’s the struggle with humanity, I’m talking about.
I believe in heaven. I believe in God. I believe that when the faithful Christian dies, he (or she) will be present with the Lord at the appointed time. That’s being in the presence of perfection, folks! Who wouldn’t want that for their beloved? But, just as I believe in these truths, when my loved ones die, my humanity still cries foul.
Where death is concerned, I think we are a little selfish. And, I think that maybe some of us do question what happens after. But, for those of us who believe in the words of Jesus, eventually, we find comfort in the passing of our loved ones. We live with a hope and an expectancy that they will meet us again.
We raised Pumpkin from infancy into adulthood. My kitty never had to fend for himself. He never fought an outside cat, since he was content to stay indoors his entire life. He never went hungry. He purred a lot. He played with us, and sometimes he bit us, when he needed an attitude adjustment. I will miss him meeting me at the door after work, not because he was happy to see me, but because he wanted treats; bourgeois prissy boy. I will miss his affinity for the piano. I will miss his tenacity. If he wanted your food, he’d take it from you, if you didn’t fight him off first. I’ll miss watching him chase lasers, neckties and feathers. I will miss his weird sleep poses. I’ll miss his raspy meow. I will miss my furry boy.
Despite our loss, I accept the fact that his time among us was up. And I wouldn’t change a thing. Who knows the mind of God? Lord, I will praise you in the good and the bad times.
Wherever the spirit of my Pumpkin is now, I hope he’s happily romping through open fields of grass, with all the treats he could ever want.
Pumpkin “Spice” Smith
7/4/99 – 1/14/16
Beloved Family House Cat