Sorrow and Thanksgiving

On Election Day, I woke up to my daughter freaking out. Our cat had fallen down her sister’s ladder and was unresponsive. Almost instantly awake, we did a quick Google search and discovered that there was a 24-7 vet emergency room a mile or so from our apartment. Ten minutes later, we had Lemonade there. They rushed her to the back; she was severely dehydrated because of what we eventually discovered was a Lego head blocking her intestine.

Long story short, one surgery, two veterinary hospitals, and almost seven days later, we brought Lemonade home. That was a tough week—sometimes we thought she was almost better. Sometimes we were steeling ourselves for our young cat’s death. (2:00 am that first Thursday night—when we transferred her from the pet hospital where she had surgery to the pet hospital that had a kidney specialist was possibly the darkest moment.)

The day before we took her in, I’d been listening to Roy Ayers’s recording of Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine.” And for a significant portion of the week, that song was on a constant loop in my head. It perfectly performed how I—and my family—felt. (A friend on Twitter suggested that my goal should be to have his “Lovely Day” replace it, which happened when I got her home.)

And honestly, while there’s plenty in my life to be thankful for, today, access to incredible veterinarians who can work miracles, and the fact that my family and I have both of our cats home with us, is topping my Thanksgiving Day list.

Our experience with Lemonade over the last couple weeks also underscored to me the grace I need to offer my neighbors. Our cat’s illness was all-encompassing and devastating. And we found grace in it, not only from the veterinarians and vet techs and receptionists and others at the hospitals, but from our friends who brought us vegetarian chili the night of our cat’s surgery, the people (IRL friends, online friends, and even strangers) who lent us support and prayers and thoughts over Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and private text chains, our kids’ teachers who recognized what our kids were dealing with, and my students, who were tremendously supportive when I had to cancel class to spend 10 hours at the hospital with my cat.

While Bill Withers took up most of my brain’s music space, occasionally a lyric from our hymnal snuck its way in: “In the quiet heart is hidden / Sorrow that the eye can’t see.” People passing me on the street as I biked to the first pet hospital didn’t know what I was feeling. They couldn’t see what was happening in my inner heart. They didn’t know that I was half a step from being broken.

And I can’t see that in the people around me. Not everybody is in pain all the time. Beyond that, what causes pain for them may not be something that causes pain to me and vice versa. But having my cat in the hospital reminded me that even publicly invisible pain can be real and that I need to extend grace to those who have sorrow that my eye can’t see.

But most of all, I’m thankful that my family—including my cats—is together today, thanks to the miraculous intervention of people who have trained to be able to accomplish the miraculous.

The photo is Lemonade coming home after a post-discharge vet visit where we learned her kidney and red blood numbers had finally reached normal. Also, don’t worry—she was in a cat carrier while the car was moving!


  1. I’m thankful your kitty is home and well. Also thankful that I live on a planet that somehow has both cats and dogs. Both. Astonishing.

  2. Raymond Winn says:

    What Amy says. About Cats. And Dogs.

  3. What a Thanksgiving.

    My Rocket was living on borrowed time for more than a year, and while our time ran out in October, I too felt grace in the outpouring of support from friends, most of whom never met Rocket. We can do so much to sustain each other in hard times, if we just will.

  4. Ironic? Hope so, but glad your cat’s fine.
    In other news, we have quite the project on with refugees from Ukraine IRL.

  5. Thanks Ardis. I appreciated the chance to—from a distance—see your love and care for Rocket. It was truly inspiring and uplifting!

  6. What a beautiful birthday gift to find your story on my news feed. Thank you so much ! I was truly blessed.

  7. So glad that little Lemonade is feeling much better and was able to come home again. Thanks for sharing this post.

  8. There is a reason people love their pets. If you want a true example of unconditional love, you will only see that with an animal.

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