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Rev. Jim Ball Headshot

Bye, Bye, Midnite

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I'm a dog person. But I fell in love and married the greatest spouse ever, who happened to have three cats when we got married, along with Mugsy, the greatest dog the world will ever know, and a rock-star iguana named Iggy, who always steals the show just by being in the room.

But those cats. Cats are evil, of course. Yet, however improbable it may seem, my wife's cats slowly made their way into my heart. Not without a fight, I can tell you. And sometimes I was able to evict them for awhile, the little fur balls.

When my wife and I first started dating she lived more than two hours away in the country. I didn't have a car at the time, so I would come out to her place for weekends, staying in the guest room. The cats didn't like it. One of them, Midnite, pooped in my suitcase, just to make sure I got the message. I'm slow and stubborn, so they had to learn to live with me. An uneasy truce developed between us, something along the lines of "Don't poop on me, and I won't stuff you in a burlap sack."

Mugsy died first, more than eight years ago. I still miss him. Soon after I preached a sermon featuring Mugsy. Here's part of what I said:

"Although Mugsy didn't know it, he was a good Christian dog. Why can I say that? Because Mugsy strove as hard as he could to please his masters while remaining completely true to himself. That is what we are called to do as Christians. When I die, I hope I will attain as a human being half of what Mugsy attained as a dog."

And now over the last several months two of our cats have died -- Emma first, who lived to be about 16, and then her kitten, Midnite, who recently died from cancer just short of his 14th birthday.

I called Emma "Queen Emma," because she thought of herself as one, entitled to all that lay before her, including the services of any human that happened to be in her presence. Enough said.

And Midnite -- for some reason I would call him "Mister Midnite." A big, beautiful, agile black cat who was afraid of his own shadow (and at times was a bit of a bully to our smaller cat, Spit). He loved sleeping with his face buried in our shoes or socks or our smelly running clothes. And he was a niphead to be sure, rolling all in it and guarding it jealously from the other cats. But with us Midnite was a gentle giant. My wife loved to hug him, and he would let her (quite rare for a cat). He would lie on top of us if you let him. (Me, not so much.) This could be a dangerous proposition if he was startled, leaving bloody scratch marks in his wake.

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A few weeks ago we noticed that Midnite was feeling poorly; we figured he had a cold, but it turned out to be cancer. And this cancer brought him quickly to the point where the merciful thing was to put him down (a euphemism for ending a pet's life).

So Queen Emma and Mister Midnite are now gone from our lives in quick succession, and I can't believe it, but I miss them.

OK, they weren't dogs. I slowly got over that, sort of. They were just your run-of-the-mill cats, meaning they had their own quirky personalities. I kept on waiting for them to do something useful, like the dishes or laundry or something. Nah. Cats don't do dishes.

Mugsy was faithful, and I try to be as good a human as he was a dog, knowing I'll never measure up. But Queen Emma and Mister Midnite? Well, they did their own thing and somehow I came to love them anyway. (A bit like God's love for us, maybe?)

Living with Emma and Midnite was pretty good training for how to be a Christian (or a sap; sometimes one and the same). And for those who don't believe in miracles? Well, these cats made their way into my heart, didn't they? What do you call that? Chopped liver?