Stuff I Talk About

by Christina Ledbetter

Grief Upon Grief

I have a neighbor down the road named Patrick. We often pass each other on walks, he with his hundred-plus pound shaggy dogs, me with my skittish Chief. The thing I like about Patrick is that whenever I ask “How have y’all been?” he gives honest answers. His kind-hearted wife does the same. I get textured glimpses into their life, and though we’ve never shared a meal (my primary means of connecting with people) I feel like I truly know them.

So when I saw Patrick the first week of January as I fetched my mail and he walked his giants, I owed him a real response when he asked how I was doing.

“The kitten I rescued off this road a few months ago is sick. And if one of my animals isn’t doing well, I’m not doing well.” He loves his furry creatures as much as I do and understood. He filled me in on his family and we said goodnight, each wishing each other the best.

A week later, I shuffled down the road as the sun set, walking in grief. There was Patrick again.

“You guys doing alright?” he asked.

“Patrick, an hour after I saw you last week, my dad died.”

His face fell.

Three days later,” I continued, “the kitten died.”

He shared his condolences as the sheep in the pasture nearby echoed his sentiments and Chief sat stoically at my feet.

It’s been almost a month.

I’m over the initial hump of grief. Over the three-hour sobs, heaving in the night over what was and what never was.

Benson has been my hero, as he has been for twenty years, letting me cry in his arms and stutter out memories.

On one hand I wonder if my dad would scoff at sharing this sorrowful space with a four-month-old kitten. On the other hand, I remember how he built from scratch matching cat houses, complete with construction grade roofing material, for his two black felines back when I was in elementary school. Mind you, the cats were allowed in the house; he simply wanted them to have the finest accommodations on the evenings they chose to spend outdoors.

He would understand my tears over losing a pet I’d nursed to health after finding emaciated on my way home from the grocery store. And he’d accept my tears at his own death.

January was tough.

But there was grace.

My dad used to say he hoped there weren’t outhouses in Heaven, as he knew he’d be cleaning them.

He knew his future didn’t ride on his good works, but rather on the finished work of Christ.

The night before he died, I dreamed about him. This is rare. Once a year? Less? In the dream I suddenly noticed him sitting in my yellow chair in my living room. I understood that he was there to live with me. He smiled in the most innocent way, like a content seven-month old. Peaceful and full of good. Full of grace.

So I’ve cried many tears over the past few weeks, but some of them were grateful ones.

Categories: This and That

3 replies

  1. Oh Christina, I am so sorry for the loss of your dad. Also, for your tiny little rescued ball of fur. Step by step, day by day, one day at a time. God is right there wrapping us in His love and grace.
    Praising God for taking such good care of us.
    Pam Brice

  2. I’m very sorry for the loss of your father. I hope that sometime in the future, sweet memories bring smiles and laughter to comfort your heart. And your little kitty…..I’m sorry. Your generous and kind actions let this kitten know a warm, loving home during his short life.

  3. I wish I could tell you the grief gets better. In some sense it does, but then every now and then it hits again with ferocious intencity. Distractions help – for sure. It has been 30 years this January since I lost my mom. My daddy passed 13 years ago. I find solace in knowing they are in heaven.. I shall meet them again ..
    Losing pets is tough – and it never gets easier for me.. They offer an unconditional love, mixed with some mischief for a good balance. I love my fur babies as much as I love my human babies..

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