Some 16 years ago, our old mother cat, whom we called Patches, disappeared for a few weeks and then one day she came strolling up to the house with a tiny little tortoise shell kitten – an only child. Patches was so named because the right half of her face and her right front leg were patched with golden tabby while the rest of her was calico. The kitten had no such coloring so we called her 'Patchless.'
Although I'm sure she felt it beneath her dignity, when Patches
weaned her, Patchless adopted us as as her family and became a house
We entertained each other for many years and kept each other
company until a few months ago when we noticed a swelling on her
face. We thought it was an infected tooth, but it turned out to be an
inoperable tumor in her sinus. Dr. Hartwell, our vet, sent her home
with us and we waited. We waited and watched the tumor grow and distort her face.
Eventually, the hair around the swelling fell out and she began to
get nosebleeds. In late January, we decided she was miserable enough
and I made the appointment for her final visit to Dr. Hartwell.
January 29, I sat in the waiting room area with Patchless in her
carrier on my lap. I couldn't pet her, so I held my finger through
the screen door and she rubbed her face on it – both sides of her
face, but more so on the side that wasn't swollen from the tumor. She
meowed softly. Brandy, the vet's assistant came in smiling – she
really has a beautiful, cheery smile and said, “We're ready.”
Dr. Hartwell welcomed me into the examining room with a gentle
smile. “Who do we have here today?” He asked, opening the carrier
and coaxing my old calico out. Dr. Hartwell is a tall man, over six
feet, with large gentle hands.
“This is Patchless,” I mumbled.
Brandy took her by the scruff and held her still on the examining
table. I stood by Brandy and placed my hands on Patchless' back, just
wanted her to know I was there. She cried another little soft meow
and crouched down. “It's okay, Mama kitty,” Dr. Hartell said as
he applied a tourniquet to her right front leg and shaved off a patch
of fur in order to locate a vein.
“She's purring,” Brandy said, rubbing her behind an ear.
Finished with his prep work, Dr. Hartwell inserted an IV needle
into her leg and then filled a syringe with a clear liquid. He bent
over the table and injected the liquid into my little cat.
I said, “Bye, bye sweetie pie.” She visibly relaxed. Brandy
let go and quietly left the room. In only a matter of seconds,
Patchless collapsed and Dr. Hartwell and I helped her lay down on her
Then she was gone. I kept petting her anyway. Dr Hartwell ran his
hand down her side. Then he looked up to me and reached across the
examining table and wrapped his arms around me, “I know how hard
this is for you.” he said and I cried on his shoulder for a short
time. It was at that moment, that I came to an understanding of why
Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as The Comforter.
In the ensuing weeks, Dr. Hartwell's phrase seemed to follow me.
When confronted with a situation that gave rise to the temptation to
respond to cruelty and anger with more cruelty and anger rather than
kindness and forgiveness, (Rom 12:21) I felt the Spirit in me whisper, “I know
how hard this is for you.”
Forcing myself to go the extra mile when I'd rather quit and rest:
“I know how hard this is for you.”
Remaining “joyful in hope” when I'd rather sink into despair;
“patient in affliction” when I'd rather cry out in pain;
“faithful in prayer” (Rom 12:12) when I feel like no one is listening... “I
know how hard this is for you.”
When confronting a weakness that I know in my head God has said
His Grace is sufficient, (2 Cor. 12:9) I felt in my heart, “I know how hard this
is for you.”
I don't know if Dr. Hartwell is a Believer, but I am pretty sure
the words he spoke to me will stay with me for the rest of my life.