Hoping for a miracle

How I wish that the people we love and the things we love could last forever. But that is not life on this planet.

This summer from mid-July to this moment (late August as I write) I have been struggling again with the mortality of my pets.

I shared that my cat, Luke, died two Christmas’s ago. Some months later, the lady who kept Luke and Leia for me decided to rescue another cat. We drove together to South Baltimore to pick up a little black cat – with a touch of white on his front collar. (Looked like a priest to me!)

His short life had not been easy. His mother had died while he was still a kitten, and a lady spotted him near where she worked. She advertised on line that she had a cat that needed a home, and we showed up.

We named him, Pharaoh, because he looked something like the cats we see in Egyptian art. But, in truth, he was far from regal looking. He had two top teeth that hung down like fangs and a piece missing from one of his ears.

When we got the cat home, we discovered that he had worms. Fortunately, he was successfully treated. Our rescue had saved his life.

This July, however, I made a fateful decision. Some friends of mine had rescued a cat, and I thought perhaps this cat could become a playmate for Pharaoh. Leia, our older cat, is a sort of dowager queen. She didn’t appreciate Pharaoh’s playful antics. Perhaps this cat would.

The decision was a disaster. The new cat terrorized Pharaoh. He hid under the bed for three days. I removed the new cat, but it was too late. In those three days of terror, feline leukemia and lymphoma had manifested in Pharaoh. If you have ever doubted the power of stress to influence our health, doubt no more.

Since then, we have taken Pharaoh to various veterinarians and emergency rooms. Virtually all of the vets have said to put Pharaoh down, to end his life. The combination of leukemia and lymphoma is just too daunting a prospect to hope for recovery or remission.

We, however, decided to fight, to pursue chemotherapy. As of this moment in late August, Pharaoh is still alive. He’s painfully thin, tired and his back left leg is limited.

Had Pharaoh been an older cat, likely we would have “put him down.” But at a year and a half, it seemed worth the effort to fight the disease rather than end his life.

Yes, we have heard the refrain: “It’s only a cat!” And our response is: “But it’s a life!” And this particular life will never exist again in this form.

Yes, it is an extravagant expenditure of money. Weekly tests are run. Weekly fluid is drained from the area around the lung. Daily doses of steroids are given. Weekly chemo is given.

My hope is that, if the effort does not save Pharaoh’s life, perhaps it will help a feline oncologist save another cat’s life.

But I’m someone who preaches about miracles. How could I not hope for one? How could I not pray for one? How could I not try to be part of one?

I often think of Shakespeare’s line: “He loved not wisely, but too well!” I have really been drained over the last month. Prayers have flooded out. Tears have flowed out. My emotions have drained out.

I have said before that once we love an animal it becomes immortal. So as you read this column, offer a prayer for Pharaoh’s continued recovery. And if Pharaoh has passed beyond this three-dimensional world of time and space, please pray that we will all meet again at that Rainbow Bridge!

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.