First, a caveat. I feel like, without knowing what I'm about to write, this will degenerate into what one writer called "selfish introspection." If that happens, please forgive.
Over the last two months we have gone from having 3 cats to 5, all Burmese. This fact has been the center of my life since about the 1st of October. I'll explain.
Since April, we have been treating, and trying to deal with, terminal cancer in our first Sable Burmese, St. Cecelia, Cece for short. Cece must be enjoying the prayers of her saintly patron; despite the fact that we have been told several times since April that she has only a month or so to live, she is still very much alive and kicking; she spent a good part of last night playing on the bed with her favorite green glitter ball, and is now assisting with this post, so I guess it's good that she doesn't know she's sick.
We have another Burmese, Ariel, also a Sable, whom we appropriately did not name after a saint. Despite her faults, she is quite attached to two things in life, Bach (at right, listening to the Brandenburg Concerto on "her" iPod) and Cece. With Cece it is almost in a mother daughter relationship and has been from the time we adopted her. Cece is nine years old, Ariel is nearly four. In July, Ariel came down with a severe upper respiratory infection that nearly killed her and finally settled in her eyes which nearly blinded her. After a month of treatment, including a few days in kitty Intensive Care and a trip to a veterinary Ophthalmologist (yes, there are such are things), we arrived at the diagnosis if a herpes virus, treatable with Interferon eye drops and daily doses of L-Lysine.
The third cat in the original trio is St. Philomena, Philly, a Platinum, a truly neurotic eleven year old, but physically healthy as a horse, who has managed to stay above the chaos and confusion of the last 90 days. She could care less if the other two live or die.
Three or four months ago, knowing how bonded Ariel and Cece are, we thought it might be helpful to bring a kitten into the household in order to have someone to keep her company after Mom passes on. Somehow, one kitten turned into two, Sts Felicity and Sarah, both Sable Burmese, and wouldn't you know it, Sarah promptly began going into convulsions immediately after eating only her third or fourth meal in our household. Another trip to the vet Intensive Care unit, the determination that she needed an Endoscopy that could only be performed by the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, a two hour drive north of here. So, up to
They first did a video fluoroscopy and from that thought the problem to be a lack of motility in the esophagus; the prognosis did not look good. There was one other test that could be performed, an endoscopy, but they weren't sure they had the instruments to do that on so small a kitten (she weighed 1 pound at the age of 3 months). They finally got one from the Zoology department, did the test, and learned she had a stricture in her esophagus which could be treated with the insertion of a balloon in order to expand it, much like an angioplasty in humans. She would live a relatively normal life after up to three of these procedures over the next 60 to 90 days. She has now had two, the latest on Friday, the 21st. She is eating well, and beginning to grow a bit, and, of course, become quite the little celebrity at the
On top of all this, my wife and I have been trying to maintain busy schedules at work and keep the house straight and clean, plan for the holidays, and who knows what else.
I've been trying to reflect on all of this in light of what I've learned about St. Benedict and the Rule. If there is anything that is central to Benedictine spirituality, it must be learning to listen, which means trying to see God's hand in every circumstance of life, no matter how mundane. These events certainly haven't been mundane.
First, gratitude for life, even the life of a cat. Cece is a real "people" kitty; she loves to be with us and will stay at our feet constantly, even at the risk of getting underfoot and being stepped on. At the moment, she has given up assisting with this post and is just sitting quietly nest to me in my wife's desk chair. I have often thought that it would be wonderful to have the degree of trust and love she shows for us in my relationship with God. Just to be happy to sit quietly for a few minutes in His presence would be a great gift.
The experience with Ariel also teaches me to take nothing for granted. We got the kittens thinking that we would have Ariel for many years and just assuming that Cece would be gone well before her. There was a very real danger for a few days that she would die before Cece. So much for the best laid plans. I am reminded that my plans can very easily come to nothing when faced with God's plans. The thing is, and this is quite a big part of what St. Benedict wished his monks to learn, is that it is now that is important and life is meant to be lived in the present moment. We simply don't have tomorrow and God has given us so many gifts that can, and should be, enjoyed now, no matter the circumstances.
The kittens have reinforced this lesson. When Sarah started having trouble, I was quite stressed about it. I was worried for her, but more, for the additional disruption in my life, which I didn't feel I needed at the moment. So, back to Lesson One from St. Benedict, learn to welcome every event in event in life. Also, that I don't own anything in life, not even a kitten. I finally put this all in the Good Lord's hands and have felt a good deal better ever since.