Today is a big day for me. It would be my daddy’s 67th birthday. It’s been 11 years since I’ve been able to wish him a happy birthday. Well, sort of.
The loss of my father was not unexpected. Years earlier he had battled cancer and won. Unfortunately, the damage the treatment for cancer does to a body is often as devastating as the disease itself. He was left with severe liver damage, and after a hard four year fight, God decided to call him home. I miss him terribly, but I find that I don’t cry much for the loss of my father. When he left us, he gave us one of the greatest gifts we could have ever asked for and I wrote about that earlier this year. Being witness to this amazing event was the greatest gift my father could have ever given me. But, days later, I would find that he had something else in store for me. It was something that would bring me a type of peace that I never expected.
On May 3, 2000, we buried my dad. It was a dreadful kind of day with the realization that I would never see him again. I would never feel his beautiful, caring, nurturing soul near me again. Or would I?
We were all filled with grief as we left the church and headed home. My mom and I got home and went about doing some mindless tasks. I can’t remember what I needed to go outside for, but I stepped out her back door and almost trampled right on top of the tiniest, most adorable kitten ever. Mama Kitty was just sitting there looking at me as if to say, “This is for you”. It took a few minutes to process what I was seeing. I knew the mama kitty because she had been a barn cat that had been around for years, and my parent had told me that she had been pregnant but they had not seen her in weeks. If you know barn cats, you know this is their MO. But, she was back and she apparently had a gift for me.
When I was a little girl, I had lots and lots of pets. Our home was a revolving door for dogs and cats. However, there was one constant cat in my youth and her name was Fuzz Buzz. (Don’t judge me) She was a beautiful long-haired orange and white tabby that purred so loudly you could hear her from across the room. I’ve always had an affinity for these orange beauties, but another never seemed to find its way into my life after Fuzz Buzz. In the years before Daddy died, I had often expressed an interest in getting another orange kitty. However, I’m not sure I ever made that declaration in front of my dad.
Once I processed what was happening, I began to believe this kitten was for me. As a matter of fact, I’m sure of it. I was crying and sad and then this little bundle of fur seemed to take that away. I was no longer focused on the loss of my dad. My focus was entirely on this tiny little kitten. I scooped him up and took him home with me, and that decision changed my life and the way I dealt with the loss of the most important man in my life. For the first few days I called him Papi, but that never seemed right so it soon morphed into Peppy, the Sunshine Kitty.
This furry, four-legged creature has been the one constant in my life for 11 years. He has loved me unconditionally. All it takes is for one teardrop to fall and he comes out of nowhere to lick it away. He has an uncanny ability to recognize when I’m sad and he will climb up on my chest, wrap his paws around my neck and somehow suck that sadness right out of me. He has removed the hurt from physical and mental ailments. He protects me and calms me. He listens to my thoughts and knows exactly when to head butt me with his special form of kisses. He even lets me sing silly songs like “You Are My Sunshine” without running away in agony like most humans do. This cat’s love for me is not like a typical human/pet bond. There is something deeper and almost supernatural about the connection we share. Others have witnessed it and once they do, almost always agree that there is something extraordinary about this animal.
I believe my Peppy is a blessing from God, a vessel in which my father’s spirit continues to grace and to soothe me in my most trying times. People find comfort in all sorts of things after the loss of a loved one. They may feel a rainbow is a sign that everything is okay, or they may sense a deceased loved one’s presence in the birth of a child. I believe that angels walk among us and I chose to believe my father sent a guardian angel to me in the most fitting form possible, the form of a cat.
Today is the 11th year that I’ve looked through the eyes of my sweet Peppy and into the soul of my father to say, “Happy Birthday Daddy”. It’s in those eyes that I find comfort, happiness, kindness and the kind of love only a father can give his little girl. Or in this case, the kind of love a father can give his little girl through a beautiful, golden-eyed, orange and white tabby ball of fluff and flab.