My mother does not have a very good track record with cats.
She has accidentally run over several of them in her time, including some of our own, and there have also been some narrow misses along the way. Mom has never had a harmonious relationship with animals, despite raising three sons who turned the family home into a veritable zoo of small creatures ranging from mice and rabbits to tadpoles and feathered friends.
Her greatest achievement, however, if you ask her sons, is when she buried the wrong cat.
“The Wrong Cat”
As the story goes, Mom had dropped my brothers and me off at school and was heading home when she spotted an anxious-looking neighbour standing on the side of the road beside a cardboard box and a shovel.
Curious, Mom pulled over and greeted her. “My goodness, Di, whatever’s the matter?”
Di pointed to a spot behind the box where a large black cat was lying, obviously deceased. “Oh, Helen, it’s our cat. He must have been hit by a car. I need to get him into this box so I can get him home and bury him before the children get home. I don’t want them to see him like this.”
Now, as I stated previously, my mother’s relationship with animals isn’t strong at the best of times. Dealing with a dead one took the matter to a new low. A million excuses ran through her mind before she said, “All right, let’s give it a go.”
A hidden video camera would have captured quite a scene over the ensuing 10 minutes as the two young mothers tried to scoop a rigor-mortis-ridden feline onto a thin shovel and then into a cardboard box. They tried to ignore people who drove slowly past with various facial expressions ranging from open-mouthed gapes to furrowed brows and shakes of the head.
Somehow, they managed to achieve the feat before Di uttered the words my mother was dreading: “Oh, Helen, would you mind coming back with me to help dig the hole?”
Another million excuses ran through my mother’s mind before she sighed and said, “All right, let’s give it a go.”
An hour later the deed was done. The cat was buried, with a mound of fresh soil the only evidence of a morning my mother would rather forget.
The next day, my mother, after several cups of tea to ease an ongoing bout of nerves, received a rather hesitant phone call from Di: “Oh, Helen, you’ll never believe it ... but our cat just walked in the back door! Oh, Helen, I think we buried the wrong cat!”
My mother has been a member of The Salvation Army her whole life. The work the Army does has often been referred to as “Christianity with its sleeves rolled up.” My mother reflects this reference to a tee.
She has served in many voluntary capacities over the years, from packing toys for underprivileged children at Christmastime to delivering hampers to people in need. Hospitality is her strength, and she is always looking out for others, no matter the circumstance—even coming to the rescue of a neighbour and her dead cat.
As Christians, we are called to serve as Jesus served. This means we will get our hands dirty at times in looking out for others. Serving as Jesus served will take us to places where we are out of our comfort zone. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all took a leaf out of my mother’s book and said, “All right, let’s give it a go”?
Dean Simpson is part of the communications team for The Salvation Army in Australia.
Reprinted from Others, November 2021.