Maybe it is growing up on a diet of James Herriot books, or something in my blood, a wish to have the farm life of my Father. Whatever it is, I find myself, hopelessly, an animal lover. I worry about the seagulls who don’t get the chips. The fish, once caught, still flapping. A few weeks ago an enormous St. Bernard leaned into me at the beach, and I felt my heart lighten. Stupid joy springing up from somewhere, at the simple embrace. If this isn’t you, that’s ok with me, but you won’t get what follows. So this is your fine print, permission to disembark.
Yesterday two of our much-loved dingoes caught and killed the cat. A confluence of events led to disaster, including a puppy with too much energy and his mother, bored and tied to a post for a week because of an eye that needs hourly drops. An eye that ruptured overnight and is to be removed today; the follow-up punch landing squarely on the ache, sure to bruise.
My Nan witnessed the scene yesterday. Nan who spent every day opening and closing doors for the cat, regaling us with the minutiae of his life and habits, was the one to fight with and for him in the end. She is marked with his scratches, for her trouble. He lost the battle altogether, she her balance intervening, and is bruised and battered and full of sorrow.
It breaks my heart to think of it. I, who impatiently brushed through every story she tried to tell me about his moods & vagaries, am broken-hearted at the thought of her having no more stories of him to tell. I don’t know why. Cue hours of broken sleep dreaming about it and wakefulness trying and failing not to imagine those moments. Pushing unbidden images back down, trying to close the lid on 2am.
Which is why I struggled so to hear the description of what Mum came home to, yesterday. Dad on a noisy tractor in a far paddock, unawares. Nan cradling the cat in a basin, disbelieving. I can’t talk about it. It sounds so stupid, even as I say the words. But the thought of returning home in a few weeks, to a menagerie less one cat and one eye, is wrenching. It wrenches, even as I don’t understand the source of the sorrow.
And the thing I can’t articulate is the depth of the wound. A cat is not an object, its evidence easily removed even once its self has been. This cat was interwoven with the patterns of our lives, the morning need to open the laundry door, the nightly chorus “don’t let him out”. 6pm feeding time, occasional late-night under-bed checks, vet visits and a trolley full of fish. I am afraid of the loss of anchor, as more is stripped away from the familiar. Suddenly a whole list of actions, rendered obsolete. It’s only a cat, but it makes me think about life and the occupation of our days.
This too, the unsightly eye. So easily fixed for us, by removal. But I mourn the ramifications, the wincing when we approach from the wrong side, the explanations at the beach. For her lack of pain there will also be a loss of beauty. And I’m so tired of the fading, the gold that cannot stay. I’m so tired of brokenness.
Today it is expressed in a small, sad sorrow. One that doesn’t stack up against almost any other. Displacement and war and terror and loss of life and ill-treatment and poverty and sickness and grief that don’t dissipate after the next sunrise, as this one no doubt will. But today, this is my glimpse, a tiny reminder that all is not well.
So that my heart will not be satisfied with coffees and jaunty buzzfeed articles and impossibly blue skies. So that, I am driven again to hope, in a future without the brokenness. Without the sucker punch of disappointment, the inexplicable settling sorrow. The sin that so easily entangles, how it has spread to every corner. And how I look forward to the day it is no more, when neither beauty or tragedy can distract me from the Saviour who came to make all things new.