I’m not a cat person. But fifteen years ago, my husband brought home a mangy, scrap of a kitten with watery eyes and a respiratory infection. She was from a shelter in Fontana, California, run by a woman named Tonya who lived alone in her 3 bedroom bungalow with no fewer than 87 cats in need of adoption. Smell that for a moment…
But getting back to my story, over a decade on and Bianca The Cat has played a surprisingly large role in our family dynamic. She entered our lives in the tumbleweed streets of Southern California, hissed for the entire journey to relocate to Manhattan and then happily adapted to life in the Midwest when we landed in Minneapolis.
And last month, after a decade and a half, she died.
In a single day she went from being a rickety old lady who just moved a little slow but still loved life, to a sad shadow of herself, swaying on her feet and crying from confusion and discomfort. Like the inevitability for all of us, her time had come.
While I was sad, what surprised me the most, was the absolute devastation and heartbreak my 8 year old son experienced. The small, furry hole her quiet presence left in the cadence of our family’s rhythm was enormous. And Grey was shattered. His tears and sadness were an unstoppable force to be reckoned with as we walked through the process of saying good-bye. The depth and breadth of his pain shocked and scared me. I found myself struggling with words to comfort him, floundering for a way to ease his pain.
I sat holding him, fighting back my own heartache until I heard that still, small voice reminding me that sometimes… sometimes… all we need is for someone to hold space for us. To sit in the pain with us. And to see us. In that moment, I released a deep breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. I kissed the top of his blond head and I told him it was okay to cry. Because it is. It is okay to be sad, to feel big feelings and to mourn.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
His tears were proof of the love we had, and representative of a little soul so overwhelmed with grief, there was no other option but to weep as a physical manifestation of the loss. It was in that darkest of moments, as the finality and permanency of death was freshly felt, I was struck by the realization of the beauty and holiness of the experience. Because even in sadness, we were able to talk about the incredible reality we know as Christians. The truth being God is close to the brokenhearted. He mourns with us. He cries with us. He holds holy space for us, sitting beside us in our sadness and feeling every tear as it traces down our cheeks; because our emotions are sacred.
There have been too many times in my life’s journey when the darkness has tried to overtake me, pulling me down beneath the waves of heartbreak, until I remember I am not alone. Wandering the valleys as a solitary figure. Instead, I cling to the absolute truth that God is there with me. Holding vigil, for the human brokenness they hold are worth more to him than we can ever imagine. As I sat with my son as he wept his heartache onto me, I leaned in to embrace the incredible opportunity I was being given to example God’s design by being close to my brokenhearted little one. Because honestly? That was exactly what he needed at that moment. To be seen and known in his pain, and to be reassured the sun would continue to rise, the pain would transform into wonderful memories of our beloved cat and love would be what was left.
How fortunate are we for a God who holds space for us? So the next time the waves of life seem impossible, step into that sacred space with the one who is close to the brokenhearted, saving those of us with a crushed spirit. And watch the light grow as your sorrow is filled with hope.
Annie and her husband live in Minneapolis with their two kids – ages 8 and 4 – and 2 newly adopted kittens. After an extensive tenure working in the fashion industry for a major retailer, Annie opened her own wardrobe and interior styling company, Hudson & Wilde. She also works as an editor and content developer for various online publications. Annie is passionate about creating community and connections with people, especially women, and she also loves to read, write, drink coffee, exercise, and travel. Connect with her on Instagram @aevelsizer and @hudsonandwilde!