We did not think we were cat people. Then our daughter Lyla started begging us for a cat. We told her we have too many people in our home and didn’t want the allergy concern. She kept persisting in her request. Every night when I would do the “Daily temperature reading” with the kids (which is a PAIRS skill that many of you remember from our premarital or marriage classes) Lyla would say her “wishes, hopes, and dreams” are to get a cat. She would literally say every single night for months, “I wish we could get a cat. I hope we will get a cat. I dream of getting a cat.” Essentially, she wore us down. Tim and I eventually caved and got her a cat.
Our openness to even considering a cat was in part because our friends Matt and Monica told us that Matt is allergic to cats, but that they had found this certain kind of cat, a Siberian forest cat, that is more hypoallergenic than most cats, and it did not trigger his allergies. After they introduced us to the lady they knew who breeds these hypoallergenic cats, we got on the list for getting a cat like that for Lyla.
We put a picture of the little brown mackerel torbie cat in a Christmas ornament that Lyla unwrapped on Christmas morning 2021. The kitten wouldn’t be ready to bring home for a few weeks, but Lyla studied that little photo of her new kitten as much as any spelling list for school.
Tim and I didn’t really want a cat, but we did want Lyla to have the support of a furry companion as a friend in her childhood. We imagined we would be stuck with this creature long after she launched, but that it would be worth it for Lyla to have the experience of loving and being loved by an animal. We imagined her coming home from college someday to see her childhood pet. On January 19, 2022 I drove to south Denver with Lyla to bring home her new kitty. She named her Mildred.
To our total surprise, Mildred wiggled and purred her way straight into all of our hearts. We all fell in love with her.
Then last Saturday we had a vet appointment for Mildred because we noticed she wasn’t quite acting herself. Normally when we came home, Mildred would run to greet us. She would lay down, belly in the air, as if to say, “rub my tummy please.” In the mornings she would hop up on our laps and purr us as we drank our morning coffee. Then a week or so ago, we noticed that she just seemed a little lethargic and not eating as much. So we went to the vet thinking this might be a mild cold or something. As it turned out, it was not mild. Mildred’s little 16-month-old lungs had somehow filled with fluid that they could not drain. The vet told us the kindest thing to do was to say goodbye.
I thought we would never stop crying. It’s funny how pets become such a part of your family.
So late Saturday afternoon I sent an SOS text to my dear friend Cari Jenkins saying, “Lyla’s cat just died unexpectedly, and we are all crushed. Any chance you’d be willing to preach on anything tomorrow?” She replied right away, “Sure I can do that.” Thank God for friends like Cari, willing to step in at a moment of need, totally last minute.
Our family spent Saturday night and Sunday until our noon elder meeting just being constantly together. We cried, looked at pictures, wrote letters, distracted ourselves, and made space for this sudden loss. There is nothing like losing a childhood pet. For many, it is the first real experience with grief and loss. We went up to the Cow eatery in Morrison for breakfast Sunday morning, and walked along the river there. Then we came home and painted a rock that said, “R.I.P. Mildred 2021-2023” We dug a hole in the garden and put some of her favorite cat toys in it, along with our letters, and we said goodbye. Then we set the rock on top.
I know in my head that we will not cry about this forever, but in those immediate moments, it sure feels like the tears will never cease. I told the kids, “There are no rules to grief. If you cry, that is ok, and if you do not cry, that is ok. There are no rules. Everyone grieves differently. There is no right or wrong way.” Lyla wanted to go see Mildred’s dead body, but Russell did not. I told them that grief has no rules, and one way was not better than the other, each person grieves differently. We talked about how we will need to be extra patient and kind to each other in these days following the loss of Mildred because even when someone doesn’t appear to be hurting, they might be hurting inside.
I am grateful that God, friends, and our gracious church community are a source of strength in the highs and lows of life. Last weekend was one of those lows for us.
One thought on “We did not think we were cat people”
This is a beautiful reminder of the body of Christ stepping in no matter what & how we grieve differently. Thank you for sharing and how you navigated this so well with your family, especially your daughter.