My kids are mad at me. Again. We have a rule in our house – no electronics after 9 pm. But simply stating a rule is powerless against the spells cast by the hypnotic blue glow. It’s my fault – I haven’t been enforcing said rule. Not surprisingly, everyone is tired, cranky, and distracted. So, in an attempt at better parenting, I downloaded a simple app to help me set times to block usage, such as during bedtime.
This angered my little people to the extreme. They didn’t understand the loss of control. Why a “good” thing was being taken away from them when they didn’t really do anything wrong and it seemed so harmless. They didn’t understand why parents are so MEAN.
They didn’t know why Farva died.
I’m a cat person. Even though most cats hate me. Every single one I owned before Farva couldn’t care less about my existence. I’m certain my current cat is plotting my demise right now. But Farva was different. She was the ONE. She loved to cuddle, would let me pet her for hours, would purr incessantly. Well, as long as she was fed. I figured this out early on – more food meant more love from Farva.
So I fed her. A lot. We joked about her round belly that would protrude even more when she laid in her favorite position (on her back, feet flailing). I should have done something besides laugh back then. I wish I would have understood the Christian concept of charity, or unselfish love. If I had cared more about her well-being than my own happiness, things might have turned out differently.
Charity is a Divine virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. ~Baltimore Catechism
Life marched on, and I barely noticed how overweight she had become – until she could barely walk. I realized this couldn’t be good and tried to cut back on her portions. But it was hard. She was used to getting food whenever she wanted, so this rendered me useless to her. My cuddling days were over, as she stiffly walked off, nose in the air. I couldn’t stand it. I would cave in and slip her treats whenever I could – which was a lot.
When you’ve passively dismissed the option to be proactive, reactive is the only dangerous game left to play.
When Farva quit eating, I finally took her to the vet. They informed me she was morbidly obese and had liver disease. I couldn’t bring myself to put her down. This was all my fault. I hadn’t been strong enough to say no to her. To say no to what I thought was love. They prescribed medicine and special diet cat food. She hated it. Meal times that were once full of treats and cuddles and purrs were now the worst part of our days. But I didn’t care.
I was determined to save her. Determination wasn’t enough.
Guilt is a warning for change that shouldn’t be ignored, not a last minute cure for selfish mistakes.
One night as I was rocking my baby daughter to sleep, I heard a sound like a quiet balloon popping. When I went to investigate, I found Farva dead in her litter box. Her lungs had collapsed from the weight I had helped her put on because I was selfishly seeking her love and affection. Weight I could have easily helped her avoid if I had been strong enough to say no. If I had let the power of charity override the fleeting feeling of love. All I had wanted was to make her happy, but what I gave her instead was a slow, miserable death.
It all sounds quite dramatic, doesn’t it? All that over a cat? But I believe God makes good out of all things. Even our sufferings. And even our sufferings that we have brought on ourselves. It took thirteen years and a lot of soul searching to really understand what Farva’s death taught me – that love is more than a feeling, it’s an act of will. It’s the power of true, selfless charity. It will likely take my children that many years or more to understand why I do what I do.
So yes, my sweet children, your dad and I will take away the electronics so you don’t form an unhealthy addiction, even if we’ve been too relaxed in the past. We will block you from inappropriate websites and video games, even if everyone else is using them. We will instill a curfew that seems way too early. We will ask where you are and meet the people you are with and say no whenever we deem it necessary. We won’t be your accomplices in sabotaging good habits. We will even make you eat fruits and vegetables. (Gasp!) We will mess up, and cave in, and try again. It may not be “fair.” When you complain about reading the Bible, or saying prayers, or going to church, we will find a way to help you find God again. Relentlessly.
Even if you stiffly walk off with your nose in the air.
Even if you say you hate us.
Because we love you more than a feeling.
Because you deserve true charity.
Because Farva died and taught me a lesson.
Because Jesus died and taught me how to live.
There will be many times when our human weakness for love and acceptance threatens to consume the will. May the power of charity prevail. May God give all of us the grace to deny ourselves for others, and to find the strength and patience required, not just for our journey, but for their journey.
And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.
~1 Corinthians 13:13