It’s been a rough couple of weeks for me, riding around in the “amusement” park called ChronicInvisibleIllnessLand. Some of the rides I’ve taken a spin on have been the Hurt-a-Whirl, the Coaster of Denial, the But-You-Don’t-LOOK-Sick Boxing Ring, and the It’s A Smaller World Every Day! boat ride.
Last night, I lay down in bed with my novel. I’d taken my normal bedtime meds, plus a painkiller. The sleep med made my brain fuzzy, but wasn’t helping me feel terrifically sleepy. The painkiller didn’t seem to be having much effect, which I don’t like. It was that when I took one (or on really bad days, two, as prescribed) and lay down, I’d get relief within about an hour. But last night, more and more things were hurting, not fewer. And the heat coming off of those hurty places was incredible. I’m used to my back and neck and skull giving off a lot of heat, but my hips, knees, ankles, wrists, shoulders, and hands were all burning up. It’s incredible. After about an hour, I finished the novel and set it aside. My mind – without my explicit permission – started taking inventory of all the places that hurt, all the appointments coming up, all the scary possibilities, all the garbage that needs to be taken out, all the floors and carpets that need to be vacuumed, and just everything stressful. Pleh! I began to cry, and about the only words I could say were, “Oh God. Oh, God.” Yes, they were prayers, even if they were prayers of bitter self-pity.
I managed to settle myself down, and just lay there, taking in my bedroom again. I looked around the room at the photos of my daughter and son, of maplestar and of maplestar and me together. I let my gaze linger on the statue of Jesus as the Good Shepherd and the plaque on the wall with the Aaronic blessing. I watched as the curtains fluttered in the gentle breeze that came in through my wide-open window. And as I felt the effect of the refuge and peace and beauty that I had created for myself, I heard little Tommy mewing.
Tommy is a kitten, about fourteen weeks old, who I am fostering with his littermate Talitha. They need some socialization before they can go to their forever-homes, and here they’ve gotten used to living in a home with people, to getting meals at regular times, to regular daytime and nighttime, and to sharing their space with teenagers and with other kitties. Tommy has been getting gradually more social, but he’s still quite skittish around humans. Last night, he came into my bedroom and mewed at me. He has quite a plaintive mew, and I just want to wrap him up in my arms to comfort him, though I know that this would freak him out instead.
He stood right next to where I was lying on the bed, so I looked down at him and spoke softly and gently back to him. I let a hand dangle from the bed, but did not make a move toward him. Esther, who is two or three weeks older than him but much smaller, moved up to rub against him, so I scritched her head. As Tommy rubbed back against Esther, his head touched my hand. In that instant he had an epiphany: Hey! These humans can do something other than just feed me! They can pet me… and it feels good! He moved over close to my hand, as Esther was distracted by some object, and insisted on head scritches, cheek scratches, and whole-body pets. He leaned into my hand and purred. It was so wonderful to hear him purr; that’s a sound I hadn’t heard from him yet. Esther became bored with her toy, so she started playing with Tommy, and they ran around the bed together.
I dangled my arm from the other side of the bed, looking up to notice Talitha watching us from the doorway. Very shortly, Tommy broke off from his wrestling with Esther to lean against my hand again, to receive my attention and to purr very loudly. I found myself grinning, thrilled that he had finally allowed me this intimacy. And I had my own epiphany: this was a love note from God, a gift, a grace – unearned and undeserved. I realized I was loved and accepted, and not just by this one four-footed furry child of God.
When Esther lured Tommy away from me again, I got back up on the bed and lay there for a moment, smiling with great joy. Thank you, God, I whispered. Thank you!
I turned off the lamp, crossed myself, and began the comforting, beautiful words of Compline. May almighty God grant us a peaceful night, and a perfect end. Amen. Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.
God sent me a love note when I needed it so very much. Thanks be to God, Alleluia, Alleluia!