Love, Jed.

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This was the last picture I took of Jed, our 5 month old tabby kitten who was euthanized on Monday morning due to a nasty, inscrutable virus that is quite rare but viciously lethal for young cats.

We’ve had very good luck with animals at our house. Shortly after we were married, Mitchell and I adopted a little kitten, Misha Cat, a lovely calico tabby who lived to the ripe old age of 19. Then we adopted a beautiful but not-too-friendly Siamese kitten named Pinkle Purr who also lived a long, long life and just died this past summer.

In early October, we took the plunge and adopted TWO kittens – a black and white female named Abbey and a male tabby named Jed (from “West Wing” fame for those who are fans).

A couple weeks ago Jed stopped playing with Abbey and pretty much spent most of the day on his favorite spot on the sofa, although he was eating and drinking and doing much of what cats do. Last week, when his appetite disappeared and his belly began to appear quite distended, I knew it was likely that Jed probably wasn’t going to come home when we took him to the vet. I saw enough sick cats when I was kid (and we had a lot of cats when I was a kid) to know the story wasn’t going to end well.

My intuition, unfortunately, was correct. Damn.

I am sure, in the fullness of time, I’ll stop crying when I glance at Jed’s empty spot on the sofa, which looks for all the world like the space by the fireplace left by Tiny Tim.

I began 2015 in a hospital room with a friend and her husband, baptizing their very premature baby who had no chance at survival thanks to a medical condition which nearly killed my friend. In July, my uncle died after a long struggle with cancer. That was horrible, but the worst happened shortly before Christmas. In December, one of my oldest, dearest friends, Liz Jackson, died of breast cancer.

Liz was a colleague and friend from my early days in the advertising business in Baltimore. She and her husband were part of the crew with whom my husband and I spent what I always refer to as our “wonder years” when we were impossibly young.

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Ocean City,1990.Back row (left to right): Jean, Liz, Chuck. Front row: Me and Bob

Liz and Bob (and Chuck and Jean) were funny, smart, and my years working with them were the still the best time I ever had.

After a truly sucky 2015, I had high hopes for this year. But, so far 2016 doesn’t feel much better than the year we just kicked to the curb.

I know this terrible business of losing friends and colleagues isn’t going to end. At the age of 54, it is crazy for me to imagine that I’ll ever have another year in which nobody I deeply care about will become sick and die. We’re all getting old. As Jim Morrison once crooned, this is the end, beautiful friend. Can you picture what will be? It’s not an encouraging thought.

When Misha Cat died, Rachel was a very little girl, so we got a book for her called, Cat Heaven.  Some years ago, when some friends with young children lost their family cat, I gave them our copy of the book to help their kids deal with the loss.

When I was sitting in the vets office on Monday, weeping and cuddling dear little Jed as the kind doctor prepared to put him to sleep, I thought about that book. My memory was a little hazy, but I recalled the author’s vision of “cat heaven” included God feeding cats   tasty bowls of tuna up on the counter (Jed loved eating his dinner on the big counter in our kitchen) and all the cats sleep in God’s bed.

I got another copy of the sweet and silly children’s book this week. It reads:

And when cats are hungry, there’s God’s kitchen counter, all covered with white kitty dishes,

full of tuna and salmon and mounds of sardines and wonderful little pink fishes.

The cats in Cat Heaven are so loved and spoiled God lets them all lie on His bed.

God walks in His garden with a good black book and a kitty asleep on God’s head.IMG_5884

Is that where Jed is? And Misha Cat and Pinkle Purr? And my friend’s little baby, and my dear Uncle Bobby? Is Liz gardening with God? Is my dad drawing cartoons to make God laugh and is my grandmother baking cookies for the other angels? Is Don Polito playing his guitar in a jamming heavenly band?

I have more questions than answers as this year begins.Which is pretty pathetic when you think about it. After all, I am a religious professional, the person other people call when they have big questions about life’s big tragedies. I am supposed to have sound, doctrinal answers to questions about heaven and hell and what happens when we die.

But for this week anyway, I am going with what my colleagues might consider to be really horrible, saccharine sweet theology.

For now, I choose to believe with all my heart that the last pair of arms Jed felt on earth were mine, and the pair of arms holding him now belong to Jesus. And I hope that Jed meets up with my friend’s baby Jacob (who may like to have a kitten) and maybe the two of them will get to chase butterflies out in the garden with Liz.

Works for me.