|Noah and Sophie 2 yrs. ago|
It was Sunday night when we realized one of our cats was missing. For over two years the daily routine has been: pets outside during the day and inside the house at night. We have two cats and a dog—all female—which seems to provide some balance to our three boy universe, ying to our yang. (However, with son number one now in college the dog has defaulted to me.) My younger two sons each have a cat. The cats, and the boys, have a nightly drill. After showers and teeth-brushing is done, just before prayers, the cats assume their nightly position—Sox on Cole’s bed and Sophie on Noah’s bed. But Sunday night Sophie was nowhere to be found. This was the first full night in over two years that the cat had not come inside for the night. Noah, who is ten, was not happy about not having his sleeping buddy. We assured him the cat would show up. Next day, nothing. On Tuesday, I made some “cat missing” fliers and we put them all over the neighborhood. Tuesday night came. Still nothing. I called Animal Control. Nothing. For three days and three nights we scoured the neighborhood calling for a cat that was not there.
Since we live next to a small swamp I began to fear the worst. On Monday I heard a story about a hawk that had recently snatched up a small dog living nearby and dropped it several miles away—near a vet’s office ironically enough. That dog didn’t hunt again. I also heard about a coyote recently seen prowling the golf course behind my house. With each passing day Noah got droopier and droopier. It’s hard for a parent to watch a child suffer loss and not be able to fix it. But I knew there was nothing more we could do.
Then on Wednesday morning, as Noah and Cole were outside about to head off to school, suddenly Cole came running in the house saying, “I found Sophie!” “What? Where?” I asked. “In Miss Beth’s car! It’s still locked!” In a few minutes, after rustling up the next door neighbors, Sophie was free and Noah was a happy boy. Turns out curiosity almost killed the cat. Our good friends had been loading up their GMC Envoy on Sunday afternoon for a trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina. Apparently, Sophie crawled undetected into their SUV during the loading of golf clubs, beach stuff, and luggage. For three days and nights Sophie hunkered down in the belly of a GMC never making a sound. They never knew she was in there!
So as this cat’s tale turns out, Sophie took a spontaneous vacation to South Carolina for three days with no food or water. She could have jumped out along the way or been run over. But instead she hunkered down for three days and nights entombed in a GMC… and Wednesday morning was like resurrection! After the initial joy, Noah and Cole had to rush off to school. But their joy was palpable. Their beloved cat that was as good as dead, they could now touch and see and speak to. She was alive and present! It was priceless. More than the cat’s return, seeing my son’s joy was the greatest satisfaction of all.
So I’m going to tell them tonight to remember how it felt to experience the surprise and joy of being reunited with someone they thought was gone forever. I want them to remember the sights, the smells, the touches of holding someone they thought they would never see again. Separation and loss is indeed painful and real—even if it involves a family pet.
In a small, tangible way, Sophie’s excursion to Hilton Head reminded me of just how joyful and tangible and real it will be one day to be reunited with those whom we have loved and lost. Our pain here is real, and sometimes we need a signal of the greater reality that awaits people of faith in the Christ who spent three days in a tomb. That final Easter morning is truly going to be glorious. In a strange and funny way, a curious cat and a little boy gave me a grace-filled moment—a foretaste of the gift of eternal life.
Dennis Atwood is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Mount Olive. This article originally appeared on his blog.