She was such a little thing as she lay on the metal table, pink nose pressed into my fleece. I stroked her gray fur, now streaked with white, with trembling hands. Why hadn’t we noticed her weight loss? The signs had been there, but we’d always chalked it up to old age. After all, we’d had Pebbles for almost 14 years. She had become the child we never had, the one who climbed on our lap after a hard day, who rolled on her back in the sunshine, who loved unconditionally.
The issues had been minimal until that last night, when we got home from work and she couldn’t walk. She’d try to stand, back hips swaying, and then she fell, dragging her hindquarters behind her. Amazingly, she never made a sound. God, why does she have to suffer so much? There was nothing we could do. A snowstorm had come up, all the vets were closed, and we had to wait until morning.
I lay on the floor beside her and gently stroked her body, tears soaking into the carpet. What was wrong with her? It was painful to watch as she struggled to breathe, eyes fixed and staring. She had brought so much joy, this little cat we had adopted as a stray tabby. Initially she resisted when we held her, cowered during storms, and jumped when we approached her. That changed over the years as she learned she could be safe with people who loved her. She relaxed and learned to trust, following at our heels when we walked and always trying to be as close as possible. God, I can’t let her go.
The night seemed endless: snow and sleet pelted the house while anguish wrung my heart. Finally, morning broke, and we began to search for a vet open in this weather. Pebbles hadn’t eaten; she’d barely even lapped at the water we held in front of her. She was fading. We found a vet open and headed out, Greg driving through the snow-covered roads while I whispered reassurances to her. She lay still in her box.
Now here we were, X-rays and heart ultrasound finished, results grim. Who would have known that her heart had given out? She had been so brave. She purred and snuggled closer to me as the doctor inserted the needle and the room began to spin. I heard my voice as if from a distance call her name and tell her how much she was loved. How much she would be missed. And then it was over.
The first week was the worst. Every time I shut my eyes I saw her, just a little ball of gray fluff, on the metal table. Slowly the raw edges of pain softened to a dull ache. Greg and I talked about her a lot, reliving the memories and joy she had brought. Our family and friends prayed and supported. God, why does it hurt so much?
Yet somehow amid that pain came the reminder of the unconditional love of my Father. He reminds me I can be safe because He loves me. I’m slowly learning to relax and trust Him. Because I know He’ll hold me while I sit on His lap.
Jill Morikone is vice president and chief operations officer for Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN), a supporting Adventist television network. She and her husband, Greg, live in southern Illinois and enjoy ministering together for Jesus.