“…’Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.'” Luke 15:9 (NRSV)
“…’for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:24 (NRSV)
Unlike the son in the story in the gospel of Luke, when our cat, Charlie, left home in May, he took nothing with him. Not a change of underwear or even a can of tuna. In the early days of his apparent desire to see the world, I often thought of the parable of the lost son. There was one difference. The father in the parable let his son go willingly with all the worldly goods he had coming to him.
Our attitude was more like the woman in the parable preceding the lost son. She lost one of her silver coins and searched everywhere for it.
I’ll have to admit there were some days that I was angry at Charlie for taking advantage of our neglect to close a screen door. His sister went out that night as well, but she never left the deck. There were more days, however, that I felt what that father must have felt – fear and grief. He didn’t go after his son but I think he must have had reports on the young man’s whereabouts and his activities.
After saturating the area with posters and flyers, we had reports as well. “Charlie was sleeping outside my bedroom window a few nights ago.” “I have Charlie trapped in my garage.” Unfortunately, none of those cats were Charlie. “Charlie was in my front yard bird watching.” “Charlie was in my driveway but he ran into the woods before I could grab him.”
People were wonderful. I put an ad on Craigslist and strangers e-mailed to offer encouragement. When passing out flyers, we met neighbors we wouldn’t have known otherwise. Those were the good things that came out of our trouble.
Two-and-a-half months later, we got a call from Animal Control. The caller left a message that they had a cat that looked like Charlie trapped outside his home territory, but we should come look anyway. We went there the next day expecting another not-Charlie.
What we found was an emaciated ball of fur and bones. He had long whiskers like Charlie and he wanted down after being held a few seconds – a typical Charlie behavior. Animal Control’s veterinarian tried to convince us it was Charlie. She pointed out the markings on his face compared to the ones in the picture. This cat was brought in two weeks earlier, full of fleas and anemic – completely unadoptable. “He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.” Luke 15:16 (NRSV) That was this cat.
We immediately took this cat to our veterinarian for a checkup. He weighed just over six pounds, down from the eleven or so Charlie weighed last year. They told us at Animal Control that he had gained a little weight while he was there. The cat objected to riding in the car, another Charlie behavior.
When we got him home, he went straight to the food dish. Okay, this might be Charlie. He found a place to settle down and I went to the refrigerator to get ice. At the sound of the icemaker, the cat came running. It was Charlie!
There was great rejoicing in the house and we immediately shared our joy with others. It went on Facebook, e-mails went to all our encouragers, phone calls, and posters for a found cat replaced the ones for the lost cat.
Again, people were wonderful. We never considered the impact of our lost cat posters on children in the neighborhood. Several parents called to tell us how happy their children were to know Charlie was back home. Other people called to congratulate us, many of them total strangers. A happy ending ad went into Craigslist.
This “incident” has been the focus of our summer. Very little got accomplished around the house. There were a lot of prayers and a lot of tears. And we had a happy ending. Who would have thought the life of our furball was straight out of scripture?