Learning to love again
A devotional by Jessica Brodie
I had my cat, Teetee, longer than my kids had been alive. When she passed away in March at age 16, my oldest child was 14. They’d never known a time without her in their lives, and she’d been like a second mama to them.
Teetee died the week before we went into COVID-19 lockdown, so her death hit us hard—really, really hard. And she died at home in her sleep, too, so all that abundant at-home time was extra rough. All those little nooks in the house, all her favorite sun-dozing places, felt so empty without her.
She wasn’t my first pet to die. I lost my tabby Roxanne to cancer when she was 10, and my ever-reticent tortoiseshell Tasmin, age 13, left to die on her own two years later. But it was Teetee’s death that left me reeling. She’d been with me through two pregnancies, the wild and wacky world of toddlers, hours-long baby colic, three moves, a period as a single mom, and now our present reality as a blended stepfamily. I felt like I lost a massive chunk of my heart when she died. We buried her in our backyard, and I visited with flowers and teared up regularly.
A couple weeks after Teetee died, my youngest started in with the questions. “When can we get a new cat, Mom? Can we get two? How about three?”
A month later, two of the kids put together a slideshow demonstrating their plan to feed, care for, and even pay for said new cat. Guilt trips and crying jags began the next week, and by Month Three it was a daily topic of conversation.
My husband doesn’t really like cats (though he did love Teetee), so he wasn’t exactly eager. And I wasn’t ready for another cat. I was still grieving my girl! But whether it was the kids’ nagging or the passage of time, one day I woke up craving another pet. Finally, in July, we adopted a 6-week-old kitten from some friends. We named her Princess Leia.
Oh, my goodness. That sweet, precious girl! While Leia can never, ever replace Teetee, she has been such a balm to my heart. It has been a beautiful thing to watch her grow, to help her learn basic things like eat dry cat food and remember how to find her litter box, to comfort her when she cried at night, to see her discover so many wonderful places in our home (the staircase! The window! The top of my curtain rod!).
And the kids have been so cute with her. They have all been so tender and loving, patient and kind. She takes turns traveling laps during family movie nights, and while I’ve had to lock her out of my room a few times during yoga and bandage more than a few arms or legs when Leia got carried away learning to be a ferocious wannabe tiger, she has been such a blessing to us all.
The other day I looked down at her, my heart flooding with emotion, and planted a smooch right on her forehead. “Teetee would have just loved you, Leia,” I exclaimed as she purred and stretched beneath my gentle petting.
It’s not always easy to love again when we have lost someone we loved, whether that’s a pet or a person. But as we are God’s people, fully created in love, I believe we have an obligation to open our hearts to love, whatever that looks like. It’s not always the same, and we don’t always feel perfectly ready. But love—whatever that looks like.
As the apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV), “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden.
She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at http://jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too.
You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.
This post broke my heart. I'm so sorry about the loss of Teetee, but it's wonderful that God gives us the ability to love even through our grief. Blessings to you, your family, and Princess Leia.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Joshua! God bless you!Delete
What a touching post! Our pets are truly members of the family. When we lose a pet or a person, we can look to God for the comfort only He can provide. He is with us while we cry and He calls us to rest in His arms.ReplyDelete
God feels so close to me in times of deep pain. SO thankful for that.Delete
Jessica, my husband and I have been so reluctant to get another pet just because of the pain of losing them. Thank you for this article.ReplyDelete
Thanks, June! It's hard to love again, but it has helped my heart.Delete
Awe, such a sweet tribute to Teetee and welcoming love for Leia. A great reminder of God creating us to love now, later, and again and again.ReplyDelete
Yes! And again and again!Delete
Wow, you stirred up some old hurts as I think of all the wonderful pets we have lost over the years. We are retired and like to travel so we are without any animals in the house and I miss it. Our pets teach us so much about love. Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Yvonne!Delete
I can relate in several ways to your story as I think back on the pets I've had as a child and as an adult. My first pet of my very own was a tiny kitten I named Inky. She followed me everywhere and was my best friend when I was eight years old. Sadly, Inky did't live as long as your sweet TeeTee as she met her fate on the highway in front of our house and farm.ReplyDelete
Sorry for your loss, Jessica. We have lost a number of pets over the years, one of them even in the pet hospital.ReplyDelete