November 222017 090 (2)


Christmas can be a complicated time both physically and emotionally. Distances make it hard to be with all the people we love. Expectations set in motion by sometimes less than perfect childhood memories conflict with the unreasonably “perfect” picture of Christmas we see portrayed in movies and the media. Add into that mix the losses that come as a normal course of life. Suddenly, “the happiest time of the year” can become a muddy mix of bright lights and tears.

Two weeks before Christmas my 11 year old cat, Pumpkin, stopped eating. The energy drained out of her. I coaxed her into eating a little and some days she actually rallied into herself. On December 18 I finally took her in and some blood work revealed feline leukemia. A friend and I held her and whispered love into her ears as the vet injected the med to take her home to St. Francis. In death, as in life, her beautiful fur was a luxurious mix of black, orange, and blonde.

Pumps, as I called her, was a Tortoiseshell cat. Like Calicos, Torties are almost always female. A male Tortie is extremely rare and always sterile. Predominantly black, they have red, orange and yellow markings and occasionally a bit of white. Resulting from a complex genetic and developmental mix these cats are part of the beautiful “fur people” that make up the Feline species.


Tortoiseshell cats are said to have “tortitude”, a definitive personality seen in Tortoiseshells. It’s easy to say that one is owned by a Tortie. They are extremely talkative, strong – willed and feisty. Pumpkin was rescued by a friend in Indiana. Mice had invaded the rectory where I was living, so this tiny cat with a big personality came to live with me. I had to feed formula to her with a tiny bottle for a couple of weeks. Sitting on my knee to nurse, she would occasionally turn around to arch her back and hiss at my two curious Golden Retrievers. As she got older she would sit in the crook of my arm as I wrote sermons on my laptop. Resting her head on the corner of the laptop she would “growl” at me when I needed to use the Shift key! Loving Pumpkin was done on her terms, not yours. She survived and controlled 6 different dogs who came through our household; some fostered for a while, and her three Goldens – Katie, Sugar and Bella. I’m sure Katie and Sugar met her at those heavenly pasture gates with St. Francis:)

I will so miss this little “head of our household”!  Bella and I will see her dark shape and hear her definite footsteps for a long time; and I will have to go back to using a heating pad to warm my feet at night.

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