Last Sunday I guest preached at White Bear Church on the topic of choosing awareness. I cited great thinkers like Pema Chodron and Thich Nhat Han. The idea is that if we can choose awareness to our lives and others. As we practice awareness our compassion increases and hopefully the actions of compassion follow.
Upon travelling we had left our newly adopted cat in the care of my Mother-in-law for the weekend.
We adopted Chewy and Obi from the local shelter a few weeks back. These were young cats with lots of energy and health. After a week or so, Chewy began to have signs of an eye infection. I thought it was a blocked tear duct so I tried to massage it and hoped it would clear. As it moved to both eyes we took him to the vet. He had also begun to show signs of lethargy. We were shocked when he turned up with a 104 temperature and dehydration. The vet gave him the works in major antibiotics, hydrated him with a water bag, and took tests.
The eye infection did not clear with eye drops and antibiotics. By last weekend we were very concerned about his health, he barely moved or ate. We thought he was battling the fever and tried to treat his symptoms. Upon our return from White Bear he appeared to have only improved some and yet his eyes were still infected. They took tests and eventually called back to let us know that he had strong signs of Feline Infectious Peritontis. This vibrant and loving cat who was not quite a year old was given a fatal diagnosis. We could expect him to deteriorate and have a painful death, made comfortable perhaps by drugs. He would live uncomfortably for perhaps a few weeks and months.
We made the best choice we knew to make. We chose to give Chewy a peaceful ending. Based on the advice of our vet and the information we found this was the best way we knew to exercise our love for our new family member.
Writing my sermon last week I did not know that we'd be practicing a hard form of loving kindness. It is a terrible choice and power to end life as a compassionate act. It feels kind in action, but oh so hard on the inside. We played and loved on him this morning. My five-year old hugged him and tagged him with string. My soon to be eight-year old said that he would keep him in his heart for the rest of his life.
Life is suffering, but certainly there is also joy in these moments. There is joy in the purr of loving cat. There is grace in the wisdom of children.