no regrets

At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test,
not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal.
You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.
–Barbara Bush, Commencement address,
Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, June 1, 1990.
William O. Foss, First Ladies Quotations Book

When I was a child my father moved us (mom, sister, me) to Virginia where we all still reside. He moved us here for his career and I hated him for it. Not only did I have to leave behind my beloved horse but my grandparents as well. The result of that move was that I didn’t spend much time with my grandparents. We only traveled back twice a year – once in the summer and at either Christmas or Thanksgiving. I missed out on some important time spent with them.

My maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother died while I was still in school so I didn’t know them as well as I did their spouses. When I was working and on my own I spent every summer vacation at my maternal grandmother’s. I was fortunate to know her fairly well but my inexperience as an adult didn’t provide the wisdom to know how fortunate I was and after about 8 years of spending summers with her I wanted to be an adult and take an ‘adult vacation’ – so I missed the last few years she was alive. I regret not seeing her when I could.

My father moved his father up to Virginia during the last few years of his life and promptly put him in a nursing home. While he was here I saw him almost every weekend, but again, I didn’t relish the limited time I had with him. I regret not seeing him as often as I could.

Now, almost 30 years on, I see my mother twice a week and sometimes I resent it; but then I remind the selfish me that she will one day go Home (hopefully not for a long time) and I don’t want to regret that I spent my days in selfishness rather than see her.

Time is short. Lives are short. Hopefully age and regrets have taught me to mark the days and take advantage of what little time I have with my mother. And with the rest of my family.

No regrets.

 

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my joy, my pain, my love

Hear our humble prayer, O God,
For our friends the animals,
Especially for animals who are
Suffering; for any that are
Hunted or lost or deserted or
Frightened or hungry; for all
That must be put to death. We
Entreat for them all Thy mercy
And pity, and for those who
Deal with them we ask a heart
Of compassion and gentle hands
And kindly words. Make us,
Ourselves, to be true friends to
Animals and so to share the
Blessings of the merciful.
-Albert Schweitzer

 

Finally, I come to the end of my journey through motherly love, both human and Divine. It is fitting that the last two quotes would be about animals. That is where I can express my own maternal instincts. My cats are my babies—not in the sense that I treat them like human children by giving them birthday parties or dressing them up in clothes (seriously, do you really think your dog or cat enjoys that?)—but in the sense that I am fiercely protective of them, won’t let them outside without being on a leash, cuddle with them, talk to them (which includes fussing at them when they are bad), and loving on them.

The wonderful cats who share my home are as dependent on me as I on them. I provide them with food, shelter, clean litter and love. They provide me with unconditional love and affection – but only when it suits them, they are cats after all. I don’t mind them being indifferent to me at times. There are days where I am not able to even handle their needs or affection – which is why I could never be a dog caretaker. Dogs are way too needy and I abhor neediness, whether human or animal. Doesn’t say much for me does it? But I am who I am and I know some of my limitations.

The cats in my life are my joy and my pain. I accept that as a fact of life and as a gift from God. I care for them, I love them and will grieve for them when they move on. And when that time comes, if God sends another lost cat my way, I will love and care for that one as well.

 

 

all the animals gathered around the christ child

 

God heals animals as well as people

Please bless this wee one, dear God,
And keep her safe from harm
And when she suffers in the night
Let her feel Your loving arms.

She gives such love and joy
To us, on Your earth below,
And we show her care and kindness
In the only ways we know.

She does not speak of pain,
Only curiosity and delight,
And to help her feel her best
We turn her over to Your might.

Please bless this wee one, dear God,
And help her feel better soon.
This our prayer we send to you,
On light of sun, stars, and moon.
–Lydia Barrett, on behalf of her pet mouse Niblick (whose ears healed)

 

Isn’t it wonderful that the same God who can heal us in countless ways can also heal animals? Like Lydia Barrett, I have prayed for the healing of my cats, only not so eloquently. And like Ms Barrett’s mouse, Niblick, my babies recovered. Did they recover because of pray or because the illness was naturally beaten back by their immune systems? Does it matter? Why question God on the small, yet important, things?

 

It does matter – if my faith isn’t strong. If they had succumbed to their illness and I hadn’t trusted and believed they were going back to God (yes, I do believe pets go back to God when they die and I know it’s not in the Bible-blah, blah, blah- I’ve heard the arguments before and I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I believe it, I trust in it and for me, that’s that)—anyway if I didn’t believe my cat babies went back to God, it would be one more thing I might hold against Him and it would separate me from God. And I don’t want that. It might also prevent me from opening up my heart to another cat-baby when one comes along to take the previous one’s place. (That is how all but one of my current cats came to be with me, as well as most of the ones who have gone ahead. I generally don’t go looking for a replacement cat. They find me!).

I know of people who loved their cat or dog so much that when they passed they couldn’t bear the thought of going through the pain of loss again so they rarely, if ever, allowed that love into their lives again. That seems so sad to me. I have said goodbye to nine cats in my life and it is true that I wept more over some than others but I would never trade the years of joy those cats provided me for the pain I suffered, nor the pain I will suffer when my current babies move forward out of my life.

 

For me the pain is worth the joy, for without pain there can be no joy. Without the knowledge that we all will one day go back from whence we came, how will we ever truly enjoy our time and the fleeting moments we spend with our loved ones while we and they are here? To not love because one day the object of our love will die is a most selfish act; and more than that, it is a truly desolate existence and a vacuous life that only God Herself would be able to fill.

 

Grimm Brothers: The Cat & Mouse In Partnership by ruralpearl, via Flickr

(click on image for link to artist)