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Charles and his cat

August 28, 2013

“You’ve got a new cat,” I say upon seeing a beautiful black and white mixed feline—almost like he/she was dressed in a tuxedo.

“Yeah … Beatinst thing I ever did see,” our former neighbor, Charles exclaims. His eyelids thicken and he swallows hard. “When Molly died this’un came over and curled up on the grave I made for Molly, then came in and slept with me on the bed,” he said slowly, pausing when the lump in his throat overcame his speech. We had moved about six miles away seven years ago but still try to check in with Charles as often as we can.

“Molly died?” we both asked, saddened and ashamed that we had totally missed this important passing for Charles. For months we had discussed who would be more bereft if the other died first: If Charles (in his upper 80s) died first, he had made it known to us that he wanted Molly put to sleep and buried in his casket with him. If Molly died first, we knew Charles’ heart would again be broken.

So Molly died at the foot of Charles’ bed on Father’s day. Certainly Charles had been a “father” to Molly and Molly a much-loved child for Charles. “I bought her a casket, made a grave and a stone out there along the drive,” he motioned with his head. The dear man was nearly blind, now on oxygen 24 hours a day. “Gets kind of monotonous” he said of the tank, “but things could be a lot worse.”

P1040022

Molly’s gravestone

That Charles can say that is truly a tribute to his steadfast faith. A lifelong Baptist, Charles has had more “lives” than Molly, surviving various heart ailments and near death episodes.

His wife died about ten years earlier, and their companionship had faded away with her increasing Alzheimer’s, but he had cared for her until she succumbed to heart issues. His most steadfast phone caller now is his 60-something step son with mental disabilities, who lived in a group home. A nearby neighbor and family are faithful helpers who stop in a lot.

So Molly had seen him through all this and more. Many a time when we’d go to visit, Molly would be curled up beside him on his bed, arm chair foot rest, or outdoor glider, and Charles would caress Molly’s head endlessly.

But now Molly was gone. I asked what the new cat’s name was. “I just call him ‘Tommy,” he said with a laugh. Tommy had moved in as a temporary resident at the neighbor’s house, but the cat stayed when the man moved on. The new cat came down and made friends with Charles, and tried to make friends with Molly.

“He used to come in and try to play but Molly would bat him,” Charles explained. I could see the scenario in my mind. But with the marvelous sense that animals have, after Molly died the cat must have sensed there was a newly open slot in Charles’ heart.

We were happy that Tommy moved in when the time was right. And marveled that Someone was watching out for Charles’ needs, who we pray for almost every day, especially since my husband’s work schedule currently doesn’t allow us to visit nearly as often as we should or want.

Isaiah says, “Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (65:24). The writer of Philippians says “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (4:19).

That night I thanked God for Tommy, and I know Charles does too.  R.I.P. Molly.

***

More on Charles & wife: Earlier I wrote about Charles’ wife Letha and her cookbook collection he passed on to me. And in my Another Way newspaper column I wrote a tribute to Letha here.

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From → Faith, Family Life, Nature

2 Comments
  1. Sorry to make you cry, again, but I know how it goes. When I was shucking corn for the first time this summer, I suddenly very much missed our dog again, who always stood by waiting for her little pieces — the ends of the corn cob cut off for her to enjoy. Or picking chicken off the bone–she was a mess waiting for a snakc. She was a nuisance, but you know, you miss those stupid little things now. Thanks for the Moppet reminder.

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