I am not a cat person. I have never been a cat person. We had 8 dogs over the course of my childhood. No cats. Holley is the same--no cats, not a cat person.
Yet, in December of 2005 we took in a wandering local cat during one of Illinois' famous soul-chilling winters and she became a part of our lives. She came as we mourned a miscarriage, and she became (even against my hemming and hawing over it) a grand part of our family. We warmed to her largely because she was a cat that acted like a dog--came when you called her, etc. She had a quiet way of sneaking up on you and breathing in your ear when you were trying to do ab crunches at 5 am, both challenging your patience and tickling your semi-conscious body to lighten up. She lived with us and in us and around us, even at the worst moments of her behavior.
Immediately after taking her in, we found out that she had FIV ("cat AIDS" as I have crassly put it before). It acts much like HIV, hiding in ambush position until such time as an opportune infection arises. It weakens slowly from the inside out, making every sniffle a mine field, and ultimately can proves unstoppable. A recent kidney infection and the discovery of significant kidney damage presented us therefore with a deep challenge to which our decision was brutal and not without much pain.
We wept over putting Pepper down, intermittedly inserting "She's only a ______ cat!" but to no avail over our emotions. Those of you who have been through this understand that no rationality works under these circumstances. None. We felt conflicted, sick, sad, and somewhat silly in public but serious in private about the whole thing. I imagine we are not the first nor the last to travel this terrain.
And even on a theological level, this is the curse of stewarding the "not yet"--the brokenness of creation is the brokenness of ALL creation, not just a "sin nature" of humanity (sorry to disappoint the modernist theologians present). Even the animals get broken in the mix. Stewarding life, acting humanely, etc. are not decisions that live in the completed Kingdom of God. We are not qualified nor confident to make decisions to end the existence of fellow members of creation--and we were never intended to (death penalty, anyone?).
And I say halleluia to that. Today we "speak in memory of and remember" (see the title of this post) Pepper and we see our way clear to believe this was the best decision.
I've spent most of this day looking around corners, listening, half expecting a shriek-meow hybrid to pour through the doorways and hallways of the house. Instead there is quiet, and soon quiet will bring peace.