Over the last few weeks, one of our family pets has struggled. She became part of our family when a relative was in the middle of a messy breakup 15 years ago. We have changed her food and given her special attention, but she’s laid around a great deal of the time. It’s not totally unexpected, but it’s hard to watch her struggle to jump up on a cat tree or not free-range through the house. It makes me feel sad, and I know there is very little that I can do.
Despite all the difficulties, the cat keeps eating, and I find myself watching her with amazement. There’s a dignity in the way that she carries herself. She will allow others to pet her and to give her comfort. In this way, she seems to be teaching us something about solace during this holiday season.
Let me be clear here. The cat is not in distress and is not crying. She’s able to function as a normal living creature, but she’s tired. If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “they are really slowing down,” then you know what I’m talking about. More sleep, more lounging, and the benefit of sharing her wisdom.
Solace is the gift we give her right now to compensate for our own sadness.
We’ve purchased her special food.
We cook eggs or provide tuna on those days she is finicky.
We sit on the floor and pet her, since her arthritis can make her achy.
Her bed is in the warmest part of the house.
That cat does have the gift of wisdom, just like every living being we come into contact with on a daily basis. She reminds me to sit down to scratch her ears or pet the top of her head gently, and she purrs to let us know that she is content. Slowing down to do these things is really a privilege on my part, because it’s a way to let her know that I care.
I’d invite you to consider gifts of solace to those around you as we head into this busy season of expectations, which makes us feel a mix of emotions: anticipations and excitement, but also loneliness and a deep sense of longing. Comforting another will often help heal a bit of that sense of sadness in your own heart.
So, make a phone call to an elder or someone you haven’t talked to in a long time.
Take a slice of pie to a neighbor.
Invite someone over to watch a ball game with you and fix a favorite snack.
The dynamic between solace and sadness is interconnected. In my own faith, that love for our neighbor comes back to us immeasurably. I pray it may be so in your own life.