Goodnight, Lily

Years ago, we lived in a vacant old church in the country. It was a peaceful and special couple years, with just a few exceptions. I wasn’t too fond of old country mice or other unexpected visitors who got turned around out our way. Lily, our kitty, was young then, and one day she disappeared in one of those unexpected and icy Portland snowstorms that shuts everything down. And living in the hills, “snowed in” meant snowed in for days until it warmed up enough for our two-wheel drive car to safely navigate back down the hill.

I had no idea how she slipped out, but I was convinced she was lost and frozen. Her fuzzy self had never even been outside. We had adopted her when she was about six months old. We were new to Portland and had interviewed with several kitty-cats at the humane society, all seeming perfect to me, but I still wasn’t quite satisfied (I am pretty sure we were being interviewed by them). That’s when the lady said, “Oh, I think there is one more. She is hiding.” She brought this little girl in –her original name — and it was a purr and fuzz-fest from that day forward. She was perfect, and she was my birthday present on my 26th birthday.

So when her fuzzy-self got outside, I began crying in the afternoon; the tears lasted hours. I had never cried so much. I began making posters: LOST CAT. Only the folks across the road would see them. Where was I going to hang them in all that snow and all that country? But we do strange things when we grieve. The printer cranked out posters, while I cranked out tears. Brian paced, wishing Lily would come back so his wife would be happy again.

Evening came, and we tried to watch T.V., while I continued to worry. And suddenly there was a little jingle of a bell! Lily came sauntering down the hall towards us, bushy-tailed as always and perhaps a bit more groggy than usual. She had spent hours snuggled up in some old church closet and never answered my calls. I felt a little silly, but it was clear she was my best companion, and I was lost without her.

Today I watched my best companion try to drink water and instead grow confused and rest her chin on her water bowl. She was tired. Her body was tired. Lily’s meow changed in the last few days. She likely had cancer and because of our vet, we had a little more time with her than we thought possible. I’m grateful for that. In the last month, though, she became more bones than even fuzz, and a dear friend said I would know when it was time. And I did because Lily let me know. She was content not to eat much for a while, and I was fine with that too. But last night she slept on the floor for the first time in sixteen years. Being best bedtime companions, I missed her. And as I got up in the dark and reached down to pet her, I knew it was time, and it seemed she also was good with that.

It reads in Genesis:

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good (1:24-25).

God looked back on all of God’s creation and called it all very good! Nothing reminds me of goodness more than God’s creation – our Creator’s design upon all animals and trees and flowers and clouds and sunsets and waters. We need reminders of good. Lily was a reminder of not only God’s goodness but also God’s love. Sixteen years is a lot of years to live – for her and for me. And she saw me through each of them and their struggles.

God’s covenant love for us is the kind that sticks with us, no matter what, even when we’re not feeling it. There’s no “falling out of love,” there’s no silent treatment or payback time. There’s simply love, demonstrated fully in the empty cross we celebrate Easter Day. Through Jesus, we know love.

Through our animals, we catch a glimpse of the love and goodness God pours out into creation. And it is so good.

Thanks for the good, Lily. We miss you dearly.