A few weeks ago, my son and his friend brought home a sick kitten in the midst of a family crisis.
My mother-in-law had just been diagnosed with kidney cancer. My step-mom was suffering from pancreatic cancer and had asked my husband and I to be the guardian of my nephew who is 13. We are on the tail end of raising kids and this is a big ask, but we said yes. With these situations comes a lot of big feelings, coordinating, and conversations.
But sure, bring home a dying kitten.
Sounds like a great idea.
They brought home the kitten while we were at a concert. They left it in the backyard with a can of opened wet cat food. When we got home the kitten was running around meowing wildly. Its eyes were sealed because of an infection. It was full of bugs and disease and diarrhea – lots of diarrhea.
My husband and I looked at each other, took it in, bathed it, tried to feed it and put it in a box with blankets and hoped it would live.
We took it to the vet, who shook her head. She gave it IV fluids, cleaned it, gave us 4 antibiotics and told us to bottle feed it every 2 hours.
We did. And then, we named it. First we thought it was a girl, and named her Lucy. Then we found out it was a boy and called him Slash. I didn’t like that name, so we settled on Bartholomew. Bart for short.
Bart seemed like he was getting better. I was so happy because during this heightened time of sickness with my family, we needed a little joy. Bart was bringing that.
Until he was just too sick. We took him to a kitten rescue and they told me he wasn’t going to make it. I was so sad. We were all so sad.
And then, I was mad.
Why did I have to get attached to this sickly kitten when I had enough going on with the sickly people in my family? Didn’t I have enough on my plate?
A good friend reminded me that there was a lesson to learn. “Yes,” I told her, “there is.” Don’t take in a sick and blind kitten.
But with all the years of deep-self work, I knew there was more. When I dug in, I realized that Bart was one of my teachers and had taught me SO MUCH, at exactly the right time, in a way that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else.
Here are the 5 lessons I learned about life and love from Bart:
1. Be present. Enjoy the time you have. We had fun with Bart. When he was doing okay, he would follow us and play and sit in the sun. I learned a lot about living life on life’s terms from him. When he felt good, it showed and we went with that. I didn’t have to wonder if he should play, or if it was good for him, or worry about what came next. I just got to be in the moment.
2. Love without conditions. We loved Bart and wanted so much more from him and for him, but he couldn’t give it. And that’s okay. We didn’t hold back our love and we gave it all. Do this with the people in your life. You just don’t know how much time is left.
3. It’s okay to ask for help. When it got to be too much with feeding him every two hours, and he was getting worse instead of better, it was time to take him to a rescue where they would know what to do. It is okay and beneficial to ask for help for yourself and for others.
4. You can’t get in the way of divine appointment. We did everything for this kitten. EVERYTHING. It didn’t matter. He had a divine appointment and when it was time for him to go, we needed to let go. This one brings tears to my eyes because letting go can be so hard. Because those of us doing the letting go want more time, often the one letting go does as well. The desire and the love aren’t enough to keep the pets or people we love with us. We get the gift of love to give and to receive. And we get to honor others as they pass.
5. You can feel great sadness and great joy all at the same time. That’s what life is.
I hope my story about Bart helps you dig deeper into your own life and the lessons that are there if you’re willing to slow down and listen to whomever the messenger may be. Going deeper in ourselves is a gift. Lessons present themselves and we get the benefit of receiving if we are open.