This I Believe

Paul - Cincinnati, Ohio
Entered on August 22, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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The Teacher Who Scratched

I believe life’s most significant lessons can be taught at the most insignificant times.

When I went to the local pound looking for a kitten, I knew exactly what I wanted. The cat of my dreams was 9-Lives’ Morris, an orange tabby. As I looked for a kitten, none of them fit my image of the “perfect” cat. None of them, in fact, seemed to acknowledge my presence…except for a black and white female. She stared at me as if she were waiting for me to come for her. Once the rest of her litter noticed, they pushed her aside. “I’ll take the black and white one,” I said. After all, she picked me.

This tiny, five week old kitten already taught me my first lesson: things that don’t meet my expectations can sometimes work out better. I went in looking for a copy of Morris and walked out with Emily (the name I gave her).

As the years went by, Emily taught many more lessons. Mainly, she taught me I had the capacity to love someone other than myself. Growing up in the dysfunctional house of an alcoholic, the concept of love, family, and emotions were non-existent. At 20 years old, I now had a helpless creature that depended on me to care for her. I could let my guard down and not get hurt. All emotional investment was returned ten-fold.

Through Emily, I learned patience when she got sick on my pillow. I learned compassion when she was in pain, and discovered my actions affected her well – being. But the toughest lesson she taught came on June 27th, 2003. The Vet said her cancer was causing her tremendous pain and there was no hope for her; euthanasia was the only option. Given a final moment alone with her, I hugged Emily and told her how much I loved her. I didn’t want to let go, knowing when I did I’d never feel her warmth again.

The look in her face was pure misery and I felt as if she was telling me our time had come to an end. Then, as I felt her head relax in my hand, and she left my world, I realized she taught me to know when to let go. To hold on would’ve been selfish. I had to love her enough to say goodbye. Though we were companions for almost 17 years, it was not long enough.

After three years, the lessons learned remain. Although I did a lot for her, she did much more for me. The compassion I once reserved for her I can now show toward others.

Who would’ve thought a nine- pound cat gave me more of an education than Graduate school? A 20- page paper on Melville has its place, but cannot compare when taught about unconditional love. I believe caring for another being, no matter how small, can bring out something wonderful in us that may have otherwise remained dormant