Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Journey's end

Kitten-Boo died yesterday morning. She had been in remission for four weeks, far more than the 48 hours or so the vet and I had expected after her last crisis. I could see her getting a little bit stronger every few days, doing a few more things that she hadn’t done before. It was a small blessing that I knew was going to be temporary, but I was grateful for every day we had together. Over the weekend I noticed a small bulge in her lower abdomen that grew larger every day. I suspected it was fluid, which meant she had a tumor, probably malignant, and I was right. When I brought her to the vet Monday morning, he drew a syringe full of reddish liquid out of her abdominal area. It was time.

This morning, a little more than 24 hours later, I brought her ashes home. When her lifelong companion Morris reaches the end of his journey, which I hope won’t be any time soon, I’ll scatter their ashes together. In the meantime, the lovely wooden box with its tree-of-life design on the lid can sit on top of my computer desk. As Kitten-Boo was my muse, sitting in my lap or close by, keeping me company over the last fifteen years as I wrote newspaper and magazine articles, seminary papers, sermons, and blogs, her ashes and a photo of her can sit beside my computer as I work.

About two hours after I came home, I was sitting at the kitchen table finishing lunch when I heard a crash upstairs. I ran up to my bedroom to find a mockingbird on the ledge of the fanlight above the french doors, frantically beating its wings against the panes, trying to get out. It had fallen down the chimney and through the fireplace into the bedroom. It had to fly through an opening at the top of a metal covering over the fireplace to get out into the room, which probably was part of the crash I heard. The other part of the crash was my hunting cat, ’Teebie, in hot pursuit.

I had to lock ’Teebie in another room, because he just wasn’t giving up on that bird, even if it was eight or nine feet above him, beating on the fanlight. It took a broom, a bird net (this is by no means the first time a bird has fallen down a chimney of this hundred-year-old house), and a six-foot ladder to get the bird to safety. Birds have this instinct to go to the highest point where there is light, whether it’s actually a way out or not. I’ve had to swipe them with a broom to get them to go under a glass transom and out an open door when they would prefer to keep beating against the glass until they died, and this one was no different with the fanlight. I opened the french door and the screen, managed to scoop the frantic bird into the net, and lowered the net through the door. It took off into the early afternoon sunlight and was gone.

Afterward, as I reflected on it, I thought what an odd coincidence it was that the bird should fall down the chimney just two hours after I brought Kitten-Boo’s ashes home. Did that mockingbird carry her spirit, free at last of her earthly body, off into the sunlight?

There are spiritual things that defy reason and dead white male theologians. On the other hand, some of the women theologians I have read might say, "Hmmmm." All I know is, this afternoon I helped a lost bird find its way to freedom.

Kitten-Boo, you are free now. I love you and I miss you.