Published February 8, 2007
It was an old cat that hailed from Greenwich Village.
A few summers ago, my cousin Julie called to tell me that her father’s sister in the village had died. “I don’t know what will happen to Aunt Mary’s old cat, Tinker Bell,” she said.
At the time, my husband and I had sworn off getting another cat, but I had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and was more attentive than ever to the little voice inside.
And that voice said in no uncertain terms: “You need this cat.”
When I told Julie we would take the cat, she made the arrangements: A neighbor from the brownstone apartment in Greenwich Village, where Aunt Mary had lived with Tinker Bell, agreed to fly down with the cat and meet us at the airport.
It was rather strange going to the airport to meet a woman we had never met, but Susie had described herself on the phone, and when we saw a woman carrying a cat carrier, we introduced ourselves.
Susie gently handed the cat over, along with the animal’s sole material possessions: a scratching post, a large jar of catnip, a comb and a dish with “Tinker Bell” painted in blue.
Tink adjusted quickly to her new home and chose a blue Queen Anne recliner as her favorite spot to roost. Before long, I realized that we had adopted not only a cat, but an actual prayer partner for me.
When I got up at 6 a.m. each morning, Tink would meow at me until I sat in the chair and gave her a lap. It became my custom to read the Liturgy of the Hours, including prayers, psalms and New Testament readings, while the old girl purred happily on my lap.
As the years passed, the cat grew frail and less inclined to leave her chair. Still, rain or shine, there I was each morning, dutifully praying while she purred.
Tinker Bell helped me to see that the oddest things can bring us closer to God. It might be a tree with so many scars that it reminds us of the Cross upon which Christ died. It might be a garden, where flowers raise their arms toward heaven.
In “Taming the Restless Heart,” Gerald Vann says God’s creation can lead us to Him:
If you sometimes take the cat aside and tell it about God—if … you think sometimes as you stroke it how good it was of God to make something so lithe and lovely and to give it to you to look after—then the cat, at other times, will remind you of God, and help you to praise God too.
Sadly, the old cat slid into serious decline the week before Christmas. At 18 years old, she was nearly blind and quite thin. She was wandering around at night, meowing pitifully, as if searching for something—or someone.
It was a heart-breaking decision, but on December 23, I took the cat to the veterinarian’s for the last time. Tink’s end came quickly and painlessly, and later in the day, my husband carved out a place in the backyard and we buried her there.
We said a few prayers, sprinkled the ground with holy water, and placed her bowl nearby, with her name printed in blue letters.
When I told my cousin Julie about Tink’s death, she was, of course, very sad. Later, we discovered a strange fact: December 23 was the very day that Julie had closed out the final account on Aunt Mary’s estate.
Was it just a coincidence? I would say no because I don’t believe in coincidences: Everything happens according to God’s plan.
“In His wisdom, God knew it was time for all accounts to be closed,” Julie later wrote.
For a while, I mourned the closing of this particular chapter in my life and avoided my old routine of sitting in the chair.
Yesterday, though, I climbed back in and began to pray, just like before. And as I did so, I could imagine my fuzzy old prayer partner up in heaven, perched on Aunt Mary’s warm lap and purring her approval.
Lorraine Murray is the author of three books on spirituality and also writes a religion column for the Living section of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the first and third Saturdays of each month. For signed copies of her books, e-mail her at email@example.com. Artwork featured in the print edition by Jef Murray (www.jefmurray.com).