falling snow

Saturday, March 19, 2016


It has been quite a long, unintended blog break since last April except for a couple of special day posts and a Valentine to share. Last spring found me busily cleaning the backyard, moving plants, creating a few new planting areas, and doing general cleanup after two years of neglect. The activity continued until the Midwest heat and humidity sent me scurrying back inside when I busied myself with tending to long neglected things on the "to do list for someday," when "someday" finally arrived. I began this post in late November, Christmas is already past, winter arrived in her full glory mild though she was, and spring is beckoning once again, ever beckoning. Over and over again I rediscover the renowned truth that time indeed doesn't wait for me.

In amongst the busyness I have been listening attentively, especially the last few months.

Listening to birdsong at the feeders in early spring last year as this mama downey woodpecker fed her baby, and now, as the birds feed heartily through winter's end and spring's beginning.

Listening, trying oh so hard, to listen to the beat of butterfly wings in late summer.

Listening to the wind in the trees as autumn's coming ushered summer on its way.

Listening to the silence that is winter; listening for her stillness for filling, guiding, enfolding.

Listening as spring bursts forth heralding her cleansing song of hope, rebirth, and renewal.

Listening. It is something I did frequently in my days as a Pastoral Assistant. There were times I was asked what my "job" involved. As I described the usual tasks, my response always ended with, "I listen." I didn't advise or counsel. I was simply available in the presence of one who needed to be heard. I listened. I was honored and humbled to share in that rare gift in which both participants receive. One is gifted by being heard and the other is gifted as the trusted recipient of words that comprise a life story. I learned, over the years, to listen to not only the spoken but also the unspoken words; oftentimes they completed a story, and I would speak them for others when they could not. The small plaque remains on my bathroom mirror, placed there when I first began my ministry, all those years ago.

It is true. It continues to impress upon me the value of listening to whoever needs to be heard, whenever I chance upon them in daily comings and goings; these days, even as I listen to myself. Ah, yes, it is often the most difficult task of all, to listen to ourselves, those internal hints and rumblings.

And so, I have been fine tuning my listening skills once again, having not practiced them as much over the last few years. I continue to listen, as I hear over and over again the conversation with Dr. S that fateful day last summer on July 27, after his examination and review of the ultrasound results. 

It is the "c" word. 

You know the one.

To this day it is still difficult to say the word and even harder to put in writing. Sweet, sweet Spirit, our dear girl, the good cat, the princess, the diva, sweet Spirit Anne, was diagnosed with a growth on her bladder wall. A tumor approximately the size of the little finger nail. It is the first time I have used the "t" word, preferring to reference it simply as "the growth." Somehow it seemed less invasive that way, less terrifying, less ominous, less hopeless, even less real. There was no way to diagnose if the tumor was malignant, but in most cases, when located in the bladder, it is cancerous. There, I did it. Both words in writing, in the same sentence. It is real. To biopsy the tumor meant the risk of spreading the possible cancer. And so we assumed the worst and provided the best treatment possible. Spirit was experiencing blood in her urine in May and again in July without any sign of infection. Sometimes there can be an infection that doesn't show up when the urine is examined. An ultrasound was done with the expectation there might be a bladder stone; a good thing, all in all, treatable. But that was not to be. Spirit also had kidney dysfunction since December 2011 and was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism in May 2015. There wasn't anything to be done for the hyperthyroidism or the tumor since any treatment would have been too detrimental to her already weakened kidneys. It may have caused kidney failure. I asked the question, the one I always fear asking, but know I must, so I may plan how to spend my days. TC taught me well what matters most is time spent with loved ones. "How long do we have?" And Dr. S's response was, "Four to six months. It could be longer." I listened, as I knew to do, to his kind, unspoken words. "It could be fewer." And I knew, in the depths of my heart from watching her over the following days and weeks, "fewer" was the greater reality.

September, 2015

Spirit was doing well until the week of September 13; eating well, gaining a bit of weight, sunning herself at the front door as the heat of summer gave way to cooler mornings beckoning her to enjoy the approaching Autumn days. I cannot go into the details of all that transpired this week; the words are not there, and perhaps it isn't even necessary. Suffice it to say, it was a difficult week of emergency phone calls and visits to the vet. I am writing to let you know it is believed our sweet girl suffered a stroke, possibly several, sometime between September 18 and 19. We bid her peace just shortly after noon on the 19th, cradled in our arms, held so very close I didn't think we would ever be able to let her go. 

Spirit was 17, a smallish cat weighing nine to ten pounds in her prime, with a personality as huge as the chasm her absence has left in our hearts. She had the biggest, loudest purr and raspiest meow that reminded us she was in our midst. She made the rules and she enforced her rules for our entire family. She was the boss, the princess, the diva. She could also be the wild child. She did everything in a big way. She was named Spirit for a reason, for all the trials she had to overcome when she first appeared on August 28, 1998 as a malnourished, critically ill stray in our neighborhood. Her absence continues to leave its mark on our family because her presence was so impressive. Our home is not only empty now, but continues to experience a vacancy of spirit. It is the void of her presence. Time has once again become my friend for I have tread this path before. My plan was to document Spirit's journey the same as I did for TC. The busyness took over and unexpectedly I ran out of time. It has been six months today; holding her in my arms, listening to her purr, and feeling her soft fur still a vivid memory. I close my eyes and I feel her head butts upon my chin, her face rubbing my face. It doesn't seem possible, six months of days, and yet, the tears now are most often replaced with smiles, comforting memories of a gentle soul that continues to inhabit our spirits. I plan to tell Spirit's story as it is one I wish to share with those who care to read it. But even today, I haven't the words. They will become known, in their own time, when I can embrace their presence and give voice to her story. For now, I invite you to share with me a brief photo journey of 17 years loving one beloved gentle cat, our sweet, sweet Spirit.

First photo - September 28, 1998. She was 8 months old and weighed only 4lbs 7 oz.
She spent her first month "with us" in quarantine at the vet's office. I visited her daily.

First bath - Fall, 1998

Summer, 1999

A favorite photo - September, 1999

Another favorite photo - 1999
November 10, 2001

December, 2001
December 19, 2002

June, 2005

Another favorite - August 26, 2005
December 31, 2006

December 25, 2007
April 29, 2010
October 25, 2011
October 31, 2011
November 28, 2011
April 4, 2013

July, 2015
July, 2015

Blessed be your heart, sweet Princess Spirit.


  1. wonderful post Sally - and so good to hear from you again - your writing and photos are so beautiful - may you have a blessed Easter and happy spring

  2. Sally, while this may not be Spirit's story, it is a story told from the heart. Clearly your love shines through it. Thank your for sharing your story and pictures, your words are a gift.I will be waiting to read Spirit's story when you are able to complete it. Many hugs are sent your way.

  3. Very beautiful and another reminder of why I married you, your heart and soul.

  4. What a beautiful girl she was & I love seeing the pictures, though tears are streaming down my face. The same terrible disease took our Hans in the prime of his life. Your writing is beautiful, Sally--thank you. Reminded me of my dad who also did visitation for his church & was so regarded for his acceptance & listening. Wishing you & your hubby a blessed Easter.

  5. I don't know which restores my spirit more: your words or your photos. There is so much love and beauty in this post. Those of us who let our pets steal our hearts receive so much love and joy in return. The cruel part is losing them. Thank you for sharing Spirit's photo story, too. I know the photos you have are treasured and honored.


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