Yesterday, one day after her 13th birthday, I had to put my darling Maine Coon cat Sascha to sleep. It wasn’t easy and I chose a Friday because I had a lighter client load and could hole up on the weekend to recover and grieve. A close friend of mine who is visiting from out of town accompanied me on the emotional trip to the clinic and I appreciated his broad shoulders to lean on.
This morning I went and got a pedicure, and on my way back I stopped at a park in my neighborhood for a little personal reflection time before returning to my home and houseguest. While I was there a man—the only other person in the park—walked by me as I was standing there, silently leaning against my car in the shade. Politely, he inquired “waiting for a friend?” Now, I am normally a private person and it would have been second nature for me to simply answer “Yes,” and then make a benign comment about the nice day or his canine companion, but his question must’ve piqued something inside me because I blurted out “I just put my cat to sleep,” as a big, fat tear plopped itself onto my cheek. The man looked pained and uttered “I’m so sorry,” and quickly left me to myself. A few minutes later, lost in my thoughts, I looked up to see the same man standing next to me, with his hand extended as if to give me something. “My grandmother gave me this,” he said, “may it give you peace,” and then he walked away.
In my hand was a laminated bookmark with Psalm 23 on it.
I have written here before about the kindness of strangers. I have been moved to tears by the actions of others, but that gesture—at that exact moment—was exactly what I needed to give me the sense of peace I was in the park pursuing. Perhaps it’s the universal human pain that comes from loss by death that binds us to one and other, or maybe the message of that particular Psalm is the tie, but whatever it was, I wish I could have found my voice long enough to thank the man who called his dog “Popo,” and so deeply touched my heart.