I woke up this morning at 4 pm in time to overhear my husband speaking quietly to my oldest daughter: “Somehow it crawled out of the box and got chilled. I found it on the porch, and I tried to put it in with its mama, but it was too cold to move. It will probably die. But we’ll do our best.”
I work the overnight shift at my local McDonald’s. On the days I work, 8 or 9 am is my bedtime, and I regain consciousness sometime in the afternoon… I often wake up to discover interesting things have been happening.
“Sweetheart, are you awake?”
“Would you do me a really big favor? Would you hold something for me?”
“Don’t think I’ve been so asleep that I don’t know you have a kitten.”
“I need to finish editing this book. I can’t type with one hand…. It’s probably going to die, but…”
OK. So I took the little thing. New born, sometime while I was sleeping. Still wet. Little black and brown stripes. Closed eyes. And awfully awfully cold. I tucked it inside my shirt against my skin, and its little feet were Really chilly. The children clustered around to see the kitten, so I showed them the little lump, then I tucked him back under my shirt. Chilly Willy and I stayed in bed another hour, while his little body stole my warmth for himself. Gradually, he began to make little mewing noises. Then he began to squirm. I felt his little head begin to root around, trying to find his mama. The next time the children asked to see him, he was holding his head up. The next time, he was straightening his front legs and lifting his upper body and swinging his head around. After his little feet felt warm, I brought him out to the porch, and put him in the box with his mama and his less adventurous brothers and sisters. I left him snuggling up to her, looking pretty good for a little dying kitten.
He reminded me of the little chicks that I would occasionally find separated from their mothers and chilled, back when our mother hens raised their own broods. Little piles of cold yellow fluff, lying limp in the grass. I would take them in and put them under a heating pad, and in an hour or two, they’d be standing and peeping, little bright eyes looking all around for their mamas. A few more hours, and they’d be running around the yard, pecking and exploring as though they’d never been dying.
I have learned that we aren’t very good at predicting what is going to die, after all. What seems hale and hearty is gone in a moment. What seems a sure goner recovers.
I do know this: if the kitten and those chicks hadn’t gotten help, they Would have died. Sometimes we are tempted to write off a relationship, or a business venture, or a community, or a group of people, or a church. “It’s a goner,” we say and prepare to walk away. Sometimes it is…. A friend of mine tells me that he has taken cold dying calves into his kitchen to try to help them, and ended up with warm dead calves. But sometimes all “the goner” needs is a little care, a little warmth, a little love… to send it on its way with bright eyes again.