Friday, May 20, 2011

Why Death Always Seems Wrong

Eleven days. That's all we were given. Eleven. But it was enough to weave a web between our hearts, one whose fragile strength was enough to leave us tender with its breaking.

Last week, a three week old kitten was dumped at our farm. Even not knowing whether he would live or die, I vowed to see him like my children did, as a beautiful, created blessing--for as long as the Father loaned Him to our family.

In a tense visit to the vet, I played the role of the naive new mother, discovering that I was overfeeding in my fear of him dehydrating. A wolf worm removal later, she pronounced him an otherwise healthy kitty. Such a diagnosis spoke hope to the tune of five days of 'round the clock two hour feedings, his paws searching hard for resistance against my hands as he drank from the syringe.

Well-fed and worm-free, he began to play like a kitten should-- pouncing, toddling after the children, and even befriending our other grown cat, Jonah. By this week, he had learned to lap up the milk himself, but still, each time I picked him up, he rooted, searching like my own babies did for nourishment.

We thought we had made it past the conversations about death and whether or not cats go to heaven. And so we named him--Micah.

There's something about the act of naming that makes it personal, an attachment. It's a point of no return for a relationship.

Yesterday evening as I flooded squares of sod, saplings, and full-blooming rose bushes, my in-laws' rat terrier came from her end of the farm to mine, sneaking around to the back porch where Micah lived and played with us during the daytime.

I never saw her come, but her exit was all to obvious, my scream piercing the deep country silence as I stopped her thievery mid-hay field. It was too late. Micah's hind legs were already paralyzed, all the symptoms I'd seen in a cat just a few years before when I was round with twins.

We are farm people where cats and dogs seemingly rain from heaven, especially in the summertime. My heart and mind couldn't even go to battle over the possibilities of driving to vet after hours, taking x-rays, or raising a disabled kitten. A farmer's wife already knows the outcome is instant at the end of a shotgun.

I knew, and with that knowing, my chest strained to breathe against the vise placed round it, whole body sinking to the floor, praying it was possible to go lower. Then, all I could hear were my own choking sobs against a backdrop of my eldest son's screaming repetition of self-reassurance, "Don't cry, Mommy!!!! I know you're sad, but you'll see him in heaven!!!" until he, too, was curled on the couch in understanding tears of loss.

We had poured out all we had to give until that pouring out left an emptiness.

This being born and dying--they are the only two sure things about life. I will live. I will die. Surely, such certainty should not be met with such anguish and mourning but practical understanding that death just is.

And yet, we fight against and mourn the swinging sickle...for one reason. Even in this fallen world, our sin-cursed strands of DNA know we were not made for death. Somehow, we just know we were created for eternity.

Ann @ Holy Experience has been encouraging her readers to learn how to live this side of the tomb, to take our place in the kingdom as true Easter people, children of the resurrection--fighting against selfishness and bitterness while sharing love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

To live this way requires opening oneself up to hurt, pain, loss, and rejection--and I'm not talking about relationships with animals here. It's the only way to show the world how to overcome the curse of death that we know just isn't right. It's the only way to live in the light of redemption and the resurrection.

My eldest son has rebounded much faster than his mama, 24 hours later rejecting the sorrow of death and, instead, focusing on life...finding another kitten to give his love to. And what can I say to this, me the mother who preaches we are built with hearts big enough to love all God's creation--brother and sister, neighbor, cashier...kitten--all, both big and small?


  1. Incredible post, Jennifer. Wow.

    Love this: "It's the only way to show the world how to overcome the curse of death that we know just isn't right."

    And love to see you linking up with Ann. Blessings to you this weekend.

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Lyla. I've been mesmerized by Ann's blog (and life) for a few years now. I've been working through her book for the past few months, taking it slow--she's taught me how to be thankful in the sorrow. It's a work in progress.

  3. Jennifer,

    I love your words here. Sharing regardless of our pain and our hurt....beautiful.

    Thanks for the reminder...

  4. We are kitten-crazy again with a 10-week-old little girl living within our walls that separate her from in-laws' dogs. It's definitely interesting having a wild kitten again.

  5. I cried while reading this post. It is true you'll see her again in heaven, but the death was so uncalled for.

    Thank you for sharing... I have read all the posts from the top, and this is the last one on this page,so here I will leave my parting words, for now.

    Thank you for all the stories you have shared.

    Coming here to visit is like a literal visit with you - hearing what has been happening, and described so beautifully as well.

    So now I am current again, as I always say. Glad to know what has been happening. Thankful for the drought, even if it's been 120 years since the last one that bad... at least we know God has a plan even in that drought - plans for good and not for harm.

    Will come by again one of these days, dear friend.

    Want you to know there are moments when God lays your name on my heart, a reminder to pray for you... wherever you may be, whatever you may be doing.