Yesterday my life was humming along when I got into my car to stop by Krazy Fish for a tuna taco on the way to a church meeting. As I pulled out of my driveway I saw a black cat lying in the driveway across the street. He was obviously dead. And I got a sinking feeling in my gut. Yes, it was my dear, sweet Romeo. It looked like someone had placed him there, although I’m not sure when. I had been out working in the yard all day and hadn’t noticed him earlier.
After wrapping him in a towel and carrying him home, the flies were already congregating around his eyes. I knew I had to get him in the ground a.s.a.p.
There’s a large natural area in the back corner of my yard where Romeo loved to play “Great Black Hunter”; I decided to plant him there. I dug at the petrified red clay laced with tree roots for about an hour and realized I had gone as far as I could go. It wasn’t a very deep grave, but it would have to do.
Numbly rocking back and forth in the porch swing, I sobbed as I reviewed mental snapshots of Romeo through the years. He was my first roommate after my divorce and had been by my side for over a dozen years. We had come through a lot together and I knew that losing him represented a number of losses in my life. They all came washing over me like a tidal wave.
I don’t know how long I sat there, but my thoughts were interrupted by the rumbling of a diesel engine that I knew so well. A dear friend, whom I hadn’t seen in a long time, heard about Romeo and suspected I needed help. He was so right.
He listened to my stories and let me cry without shushing me. And then I told him about how I had buried Romeo in the yard. I was worried that he might not be buried deep enough and the body would start to smell. But my friend had another worry, something I hadn’t considered. He feared animals would find the body and dig it up. He offered to dig a new grave, a deeper one, so we could move Romeo’s body to a place where it wouldn’t be disturbed.
It was almost dark by the time my friend finished digging the hole. Then he scooped up Romeo in the dirt and planted him in his final resting place. Just to make sure, he placed a large log over the grave. For me, this was but one more horrible ordeal to endure in what had already been a horrific experience.
To say it wasn’t a good day for me is an understatement. But it wasn’t all bad, either. In the midst of my grief I learned that I have a dear friend. He’s one of those in-deed friends, the kind who comes through when you need him.
It reminds me of a time when Jesus wasn’t having a good day. He was in the wilderness, hungry, tormented by evil, and tempted to throw in the towel. As the story goes, God sends angels to wait on him. So often, that seems to be what God does. God’s angels don’t necessarily come to wait on us whenever we snap our fingers. But when we really need them, they seem to appear out of nowhere. No, they’re not winged creatures in white robes. Sometimes they might even show up in a station wagon with a rumbly engine.
I’m thankful as I think back on the past 24 hours. Thankful for a wonderful, furry companion with whom I gave and received so much love over the years. I’m thankful for a dear friend who cared enough to show up on my porch without being asked. And I’m thankful for a God who seems to provide for what I need when I need it the most.
This happened the day after Easter and I see resurrection written all over it. New life doesn't just spring from death like a blossom popping out of a tree. New life is only possible through the death of an old life. No matter how many times I experience that, I continue to be surprised by it. And grateful.