The Importance of Keeping your Heart Open And a Few Lessons I Learned from Losing a Cat and Adopting a New One
Our hearts are fragile.
Once they get hurt we don’t want them to get hurt again. So we do things to protect them. I had a dog when I was a kid, a Lhasa Apso named Webster. He died when I was in college and when he did, my Mom promised herself she’d never get another animal. I haven’t had the same philosophy.
When my husband and I started to lose Ed earlier this year, we realized, together, just how powerful the love is we can have for a pet. It’s hard to imagine losing them, but boy are they worth the opening and breaking of the heart. It’s not like losing a human, but in a way it is, because you can’t believe how great is the love you have for them. Human love is not always unconditional. God’s love is, but human love isn’t. An animal’s love? Is. In fact, in losing Ed, I was reminded just how much animals are a living, breathing example of God’s unconditional love for us on earth. What a gift.
When we lost Ed, I thought it would be months before we’d get another cat because nothing could replace Ed and we needed to mourn him. But we also realized no cat would ever replace him, so why not bring the love back into our home? We went and adopted Simba and immediately our hearts started to open back up again.
Our hearts are fragile. But we can’t keep them shut. Or the door to our heart gets stuck.
It is so hard to say goodbye, to let go of a living creature that was by your side for so many things in your life. But again, you see another reminder. God is always by your side. Whatever you go through, no matter how tough, He’s right there. Our animals are a good reminder of that.
The night we said goodbye to Ed, I had to drive home two and a half hours from the hospital at Michigan State Veterinary School. It was a tough ride, but a good time to talk to God about the loss, to realize that God had Ed and He still had us. One friend said to me, that maybe Ed’s purpose was fulfilled and somehow I believed that. Only God knows how long we’re going to be here and what our purpose is. The hours earlier that Ed went into one last surgery that they couldn’t complete because he was so sick, we knew going in that it might be time. We’d given him everything we had and loved him with every bit of love we had. But God knew it was time and we could accept it.
Over a few weeks of feeling like Ed was just around the corner or at the front door, or waiting to be fed, we sat with our feelings. We watched as Ariel looked around and over the bed to see if Ed was hiding and ready to pounce. Every time we opened the front door she looked to see if one of us was carrying his crate. It was hard. But we started to realize that she was sad, and needed a companion.
As much as we loved Ed, we couldn’t withhold love from Ariel, or ourselves. We had to keep our hearts open to love another animal. Then came Simba. Simba has settled into a new space in our hearts that isn’t the same as the one Ed filled, because that could never be touched. But we’ve already fallen in love and we’re excited to see what adventures in life he gets to join us on.
In the meantime, I want to tell you a few of the things revealed to us because we opened our hearts to the heartbreak of loving and losing Ed:
- The love you have for a pet is big and if anyone ever tells you it’s not important, they haven’t loved an animal. They are God’s gift to the world.
- Losing Ed over two weeks, thinking we would lose him three times we were able to prepare for his passing which was a gift; a gift I didn’t get with my Dad. (Amazing to see what God uses to heal our hearts.)
- I wasn’t there when my father died and I wasn’t there with Mike when his Dad died either. But God had me be the one present when Ed died, without Mike there, which just felt to me like a whole other level of healing my heart from the loss of Dad. (If you lose an animal, look for the signs and ways God may be healing your heart from another loss. You never know what God will use to help you.)
- Pets are in it for the long haul. Ed was with me as I grew up with God. He was with me every morning in devotion. He was part of my physical healing as I recovered from various injuries and surgeries. (They are little healers and comforters God created for us.)
- As someone who thought I never liked cats, Ed was a huge part of my recovery because he softened me with his snuggles, made me more loving and caring and comforting. His constant need to be near me showed me a whole other level of affection that I didn’t have when I was using, that I could give to others. (If you are hurting and not ready to let in people to love, let in an animal to love and your heart will expand.)
Oh, and one more thing – animal lovers know about the unconditional love of an animal. It’s a palpable tangible love. They teach us more about the love of the Father than I think we realize. If you’ve ever loved a pet, know this – even if you’ve been through relationships where you didn’t feel God’s love – the love of your pet for you has shown you God’s love. It’s been a living, breathing example. So if you ever wonder why you love your pet so much, imagine that’s how much God loves you – but even more than you could imagine.
Thanks to all of you who walked with us on the journey as we said goodbye to Ed. Your words meant a lot. Also, thanks to those of you who love your pets like they are part of your family because you are teaching the world how to keep the heart open to love.