Love at first sight.
It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving when I walked into the PetSmart in Conyers, Georgia, and the fluffy gray and white kitten caught my eye. A local rescue was hosting an adoption day, and I immediately knew that I wanted to take her home with me. She was in the arms of a 10-year-old girl, who was gazing at her adoringly, and I casually asked the girl if she was adopting the kitten. "We're thinking about it." was her reply.
She continued holding and petting the kitten, and I went back out into the store to ask the rescue director if they had any more. I had already filled out my paperwork and was approved to adopt, and so she informed me that I would be first in line for that kitten, who they called Amber. But I quickly shook my head. I would never do that to a child.
As I looked around, it seemed that every kitten in the rescue was being clutched by a child. A sweet scene, to be sure, and one that reminded me that at 53, I needed to park my disappointment. Though my heart was heavy from a recent loss, I was certainly capable of managing my emotions.
Just as I was about to leave, I saw the girl who had been holding "Amber" walking away with her parents. I approached them and asked if they had decided against adopting, and the girl's mother assured me that they had never intended to go home with a kitten. Too much work.
Minutes later, after paying the adoption fee, I was driving home with this 4-month-old fuzz ball, who was calm and relaxed in her carrier the entire drive. She just looked at me with soft, amber eyes. I took her into the coziest room in the house - the master bathroom, with its heated floors - and we got to know each other. Sitting on the floor with her, I received head butts and snuggles, when she wasn't playing with my shoe laces.
Petite and elegant, I named her Grace. She was quickly comfortable with her surroundings and the other pets in the house, and spent hours rolling around next to me, making "air biscuits" and purring so loudly that it could be heard in the next room.
Daily I was greeted with her sweet, chirping mew. She stole balls of yarn from my knitting basket and tackled her older brother, Mickey, with the girlful glee of a baby. As pretty a kitten poster-girl as I have ever seen, she insisted I clean out the litter box for her each morning. She had standards. Every day I smiled and laughed because of her.
Grace was an excellent traveler and went with me daily on my outings, riding in her carrier without a complaint, as long as the door was left open. She liked having options, but would circle around, rub her head on my hand, and return to the comfort of her carrier. She made the trip with my brother's family to my parent's home in Michigan for Christmas. Five hours from Covington, GA to Bowling Green, KY, and another seven hours the following day to Stevensville.
I loved having her with me, and she seemed happy to explore new places and meet new people.
Sadly for me, my days with her were limited to 139. After three weeks of the best care available, two blood transfusions, and several days in the ICU, on Friday, April 13 - at less than 9 months old - I gave her back to God.
I am grateful for all of our days - most good and a few not, because of her illness. I am grateful for the surprisingly good day that we had that Thursday - I set her up with a perch in the front window, so that she could look outside and feel the breeze. I am grateful for the peace that washed over me as I held her when she transitioned. Peace that she gave me. I only wish that her life had been long. A rare blood cancer made that impossible.
I know that she is waiting for me on the other side. The God I believe in would not put these wonderful creatures on Earth, only to keep them from us in paradise. I imagine her telling me, "Mama, don't be sad. I'm whole and healthy, running through fields of daisies and chasing fireflies. And I can see you! Love another kitten, Mama. And another. And another. I'll be so happy to see all of you when you get here."
Yesterday I looked up the definition of grace...
1. Simple elegance or refinement of movement
2. (in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the forgiveness of sinners and the bestowal of blessings
1. do honor or credit to - someone or something - by one's presence.
I named her Grace. And she was.
Our last full day together, resting in the window perch I made for her, using the sofa table.
Just prior to receiving her diagnosis - myeloid leukemia - she was still benefitting from her last transfusion, looking and acting like "herself".