When our middle daughter and family moved from the west to Ontario, Margaret went out and brought their three cats to our house. After the move we took Dexter back to them, but kept Bruce and Smokey.

Six months later Bruce succumbed to his feline AIDS. He was close to a miracle, being at least 15 years old. He was a friendly cat, with unbelievable patience with the kids.

Smokey could never be described as friendly. He loved Bruce, who really was Smokey’s only social contact. He stuck to Bruce day and night.

Smokey July 2012

So Smokey did turn to us. He had been a stray and always assumed every movement meant danger. We patiently encouraged him to trust us. He did come for brushing and petting, but wouldn’t allow necessary things like cutting nails or other maintenance.

But eventually he would greet me as I came in from work after a night shift. He would lie beside me on the couch right against my leg. He never sat on my lap, but a few days ago he actually put both front paws on my lap. He was a huge, short-haired cat.

Yesterday I remarked that we hadn’t seen him all day, which was a bit unusual. So before we went to bed Margaret went looking in his usual hiding places.

She found him under the bunk beds, only he was dead. No symptoms, No warning signs. No change of behaviour. So I guess his heart just stopped. He was at least 12 years old.

At eleven o’clock we went outside. Margaret held the umbrella and flashlight and I dug the hole in the wet clay. I had to get it deep enough that nothing would disturb the grave.

And then I placed Smokey at the edge of the garden beside the sunflowers near the sweetgrass.

It rained all night.

It took great patience over months to connect with Smokey and become something close to a friend. When I look at that this morning I can see that our experience points to how God pursues each human being with love, to connect and stay connected.

Jesus pictured God as a Shepherd seeking the lost lamb (Luke 15:1-7), as a woman looking for a lost coin until she finds it (Luke 15:8-10) and as a Father welcoming a lost son home even after a life of disgrace that shamed his Father (Luke 15:11-32). Surely God’s patience and love exceeds mine by a multitude of stars and galaxies.

Still, for me right now, even though we had Smokey for only a year, I’m going to miss that big guy. A lot.