Two summers ago I was at a Phillies game (shocking I know:) and had the opportunity to talk with one of my favorite former Phillies, Justin DeFratus, about C.S. Lewis. I was nursing a broken heart that day because of a failed attempt to find closure with a former boyfriend. Justin didn't know this when we talked. Justin asked me if I had ever read C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves. I told him I hadn't, but that I would soon because I would have time to read it over summer vacation. After talking with Justin, I decided to buy that book for my Kindle, and I started reading it immediately. I will forever be grateful for that conversation because that book improved my mindset on what love looks like. It has allowed me to leave my desire for a family of my own in God's Hands, and to thank God for all He has given me.
One of the ways I experience unconditional love daily is from my cats. For most of my adult life I have had 1-3 cats as pets. I recently joked with one of my best friends that I'm determined to redefine the stereotype regarding single women and cats. I told her I was going to make it a cool thing to be a cat lady. I was going to make it so cool Beyonce would want to sing about me. Just picture Beyonce singing "All the Single Cat Ladies:)"
My cats are my family. When my Mom had to sell our family home after my Dad passed, our family cats Rusty and Midnight came to live with my cat Sarah and me. Sarah was a huge help to me when my Mom passed away unexpectedly. My cat Annie was the first positive step I took to move forward after losing my Mom. My cat Cassie, who came to live with me most recently, sees no limits to how high she can leap. Every day I am surprised by where she sits and how much she loves doing laps around my apartment. Cassie has no reservations and no doubts. She's so confident she tried to sit on my top of my drying rack once. When she fell to the floor because it couldn't hold her, I think I was more startled than she was. Cassie just went back to exploring. My cats have loved me through joys and triumphs and provided this teacher with more comic relief than I could possibly describe in one blog post.
Yesterday I had the impossible task of saying goodbye to my Annie. My heart was breaking as it rained outside. Annie had lived with me for 13 years. The cat who had come to represent sunshine to me was in serious pain. What I recently thought was a food allergy had turned out to be cancer. I had a very short amount of time to realize Annie had been suffering far too long, and I had to let her go. I said goodbye to my sweet Annabella at home. I was surrounded by the love of three close friends, and feeling the prayers of countless others. A very kind and patient doctor helped me with this impossible choice. It was an incredibly difficult and dark day.
The game finally started around 9:30pm. What I watched unfold seemed surreal. The Dodgers had swept my Phillies over the weekend, and yet my Phillies had a sizable lead over the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs. As the game went on, I started to feel some peace.
My Phillies won last night 10-2. I know they had no knowledge of what I was going through, but it felt like their efforts were for me. I started to believe that each day I would feel a little more peace. I started to believe that the sun was going to shine again.
When I got to school this morning, my kids started showering me with love and concern. One of my girls from last year had brought me a Charlie Brown and Snoopy statue. Another student from two years ago dropped a sweet note on my desk. One of my girls brought me a sunshine filled card, and one of my boys wrote a little story about how "Annie was with God's love." My friends and colleagues gave me hugs and encouragement as the day progressed. I had lunch with two of my boys. A friend and parent from last year dropped me a note and gift card for dinner saying how sorry she was to hear of my loss. Everywhere I turned, people were lifting me up. Everywhere I went today I felt sunshine. This is a time in the school year when I usually wonder if my students are listening to me. Today I saw that my students were listening with their whole hearts. Today I felt a little more peace. I was reminded again that my calling is bigger than me. I was given the gift of unconditional love from my first graders both present and past.
I am grateful for 13 years with my Annie. I am grateful for her company, her love, and the joy she brought to my life. I know when the time is right, I will bring home a new friend for Cassie. In the meantime I am grateful that I have another animal to love after a long day in the classroom. I am grateful for my current understanding of what love looks like...my Cassie.
As always, thanks so much for reading.