Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Six days ago, Scully was fine.

At least she seemed fine to me. Still following me around the house, still perched in my lap every moment I sat at the computer, still crawling under the covers with me at night. Still eating, still playing, still swatting her brothers.

Then I noticed a change. She was sleeping more. And eating less. She began to slow down. Simple movements required several minutes of recoup time. I called the vet Friday morning. Of course they were booked until the following Wednesday. Was it an emergency? Hell, I didn't know. But Scully was still drinking, still using the litterbox, still purring.

But Saturday morning was no better. I called the emergency vet hospital and took her in. The vet took a blood and urine sample. She wasn't too concerned about Scully not eating, at least at this point, but suggested I give her pepcid tablets to quiet her stomach. Just pop it down her throat. Yeah...right. The vet was most concerned about her heart. She could hear both a murmur and a gallop. Not a good sign, but possibly controllable with heart medication. Though, see above about me giving pills.

We surmised that the heart was the cause of the lack of energy. Having to work too hard to pump the blood, thus Scully was needing more down time.

At the vet's office she roamed around, snooping in corners, walking across the computer keyboard. In retrospect I imagine that adrenaline kept her going there. But once back at home, she collapsed in my computer desk chair. I moved it over and brought in a dining room chair for myself.

No news Sunday. But less energy for Scully. Still drinking, still using the box. But no food, and needing lots of rest. Still in my desk chair.

Monday morning I called first thing. The vet was very quiet as she told me the news. The heart was secondary. It seems my little cat had very few red blood cells. The underlying causes were such that, even if we attempted drastic measures to find the source (ie, blood transfusion, multiple tests) the prognosis was still grim. The decision to make - delay the inevitable and subject my dear companion to multiple pokes and prods, or show mercy.

Show mercy and let her pass on while her existence was still relatively calm and (hopefully) painless. I agonized all morning with my thoughts, as I waited to hear from my regular vet. A new symptom appeared. Scully's eyes began to twitch horizontally, pupils dilated. Her whiskers also began twitching. My vet finally called at 11:00 am, having seen the blood work. Her prognosis mirrored that of the ER vet. And the darting eyes and twitching chin indicated neurological issues. Tearfully I gave my decision to let Scully go. The vet said she'd call back, once she made some time in her schedule.

I sat at my computer, mindlessly surfing. I e-mailed a few friends with the news. The vet finally called and we set the time for 2:30. I picked Scully up and put her in my lap. I wondered how comfortable she would be. But she was fine. For awhile she curled up in a little ball as I clicked through the web. Then she stretched out across my lap, still calm and relaxed. An hour and a half, she slept on my lap. Her warm body comforting me.

I called a colleague from church, who had responded to an e-mail. We talked for a long time, and Joan reassured me that showing mercy to my precious friend was a true gift. It was hard for me to believe, because Scully seemed so normal as she slept. But at 1:45, she awoke suddenly and slid from my lap. She began to dry heave. No food for six days leaves nothing to come up. I hung up the phone with Joan, and tried to comfort Scully. The heaving stopped, and she crawled under my desk. Wide-eyed, twitching again, now that she was awake. And then she let out a mournful squall. My little cat never meowed - she was not the vocal type. This outburst cemented my decision.

My mother was to come at 2:15 to drive us to the vet, but I called and told her to come now. She was there in less than five minutes. Scully was still under the desk, and seemed okay for the moment, but I was frantic. I feared repeating the scene from 9 years prior, watching my Nermal fighting for her last frantic breaths. Never again, I had promised myself and future furry friends. Scully howled again, and crawled from under the desk and straight into the cat carrier. I told mom to call the vet, to tell them we're on the way now. The clock became my enemy. I wanted to end her pain now.

We got in the car. My tears were flowing as I watched my cat struggle. Fortunately the episodes were short and not frequent. I told her to hang on, it would be over soon. I also begged her to just die, to let go. But she wouldn't.

At the vet's office, we were led into a dimly lit room. A thick blanket was laid out on the exam table. Candles were available. Figurines and pictures and a book decorated the scene. About as comforting as one could find in a situation like this. We had about 15 minutes to wait, as Dr. Sue made her way back to the office. I tried to comfort Scully as much as I could. I took the lid off the cat carrier, but she didn't move out of it.

Dr. Sue arrived, went over the procedure, and not wanting Scully to endure any more episodes, I hurried things along. I held Scully's head and talked to her, while the vet and her assistant found a vein. It took two attempts, as the blood disease had weakened Scully's veins. Using her stethoscope, the vet felt listened a moment and then said, "Her heart has stopped." And that was it. My precious Scully was gone.

And life as I knew and loved ended.

And I feel cheated.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Welcome to Middle Age

Not bad for 40. This photo was taken overlooking the Aegean Sea. The Temple of Poseidon at Sounion is in the background.
While in Mexico on a mission trip at the beginning of April, I got a message to call the senior pastor as soon as possible. This worried me. Two years prior, I had received a call like this, and one of the members at my little church had passed away.
Expecting the worst, I made the call. Lewis was surprised by my quick reply, and told me that one of the women who had signed up for the Footsteps of Faith trip to Greece and Turkey had to back out at the last minute and would I like to go. Of course I would, I said, but money is an issue and is why I wasn't going anyway. He countered, what if the church pays your way? $6000 - How could I say no to that? It was like winning the showcase on the Price Is Right. Two weeks in Greece/Turkey, and getting to celebrate my 40th birthday while there. Pretty nice!
Now, the ironic twist is this. The day before I had been speaking with Reggie, who is one of our residents at the church. Each year the senior residents lead the high school students on a Footsteps trip to Rome, Greece and Turkey. He wondered if I would ever get to go with them. I said, I was low on the totem pole and there were many associate pastors ahead of me. Later that day, with the conversation still on my mind, I wondered what if someone on the Adult Footsteps trip had to back out - could I possibly go. Then I dreamt about it. In my dream, a woman got ill and could not go. I was asked to go in her place.
Okay, spooky, I know. I shared this info with my Mexico mission trip partners after I got the message from Lewis, and they began to tease me, saying, don't let Rachel pray for you. Obviously I did not pray for anyone to get sick. Just an odd turn of events. Can I help it if my dream actually came true?
Anyway, the trip was incredible. More on that later. And I actually turned 40 without too much stress associated with that momentous occasion. I am not sure how I can top this trip at 50, but at least I have a few years to plan. Maybe if I start praying now...just kidding!

Another car post

Before everyone begins to think that my car is my life, let me just say this will probably be the final post about it. I just got back from a trip to Greece and Turkey - will post about that separately - but right before I left on the trip, my new car was desecrated.

Okay, maybe that is a strong word. It was marred, dented while parked. And the offender didn't even bother to leave a note. I am guessing that he/she probably lacked insurance, considering the neighborhood where the incident occurred.

I only write about this because nearly the exact same thing happened to my previous car. I had purchased the Taurus used, but only three years old. A few weeks after buying the car, I had gone to a yard sale, parked on the street, and some woman backed out of her driveway and gouged it. It was rather minor, the car was inexpensive, so I never got it fixed.

So here with my new Subaru, only had it a month, went to a Board meeting at our neighborhood ministry, parked on the street, and someone hit it. At least I think that's where it occurred. I can't be sure because I didn't notice it until the next day.

Because this is a nicer car, cost three times as much as the Taurus, I am definitly going to get it fixed. But I just wonder at the coincidence between the two events. Rather odd.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Oh, crap....

Okay, so I love my new car. I really do. But then yesterday I went to the dealership to pick up the owner's manual. The previous owner had not turned it in with the car, so they ordered a new one for me. I started plodding through it. Yes, plodding. Really, how exciting is it to read an owner's manual? But there are several buttons and knobs about which I know nothing. All was well until I got to the section on fuel.

Apparently I purchased a vehicle that requires premium unleaded gasoline. Believe you me, I read that section repeatedly and quite slowly until every word sunk in. So, the cute little turbo engine (the one that makes the car go 140 mph) requires special, high-end fuel. Putting in lesser fuel will cause knocking and possibly mess something up. I know that's not the technical jargon for what will happen, but basically, if I use the cheap gas, I'm going to ruin something.

Needless to say I am livid with the dealership. You would think that they would disclose that type of information. I know, I know. They're just trying to sell cars. And who wants to buy a car that requires premium gasoline? When the price of gas is already through the roof and keeps climbing higher? Leave it to the stupid female consumer who knows nothing about engines.

Sure I did my research, but I don't ever remember reading anything about this particular model needing premium fuel. Well, I guess I'm stuck with it. Crap.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Becoming a Subaru Snob

Okay, so I've been looking at the Subaru Forester for the past three or so years. No big hurry to buy a car, mind you. My trusty little Taurus has served me well. For certain, I've kept my mechanic in business. But nothing unexpected from an eleven year old car. A car that I own outright. With low insurance premiums.

But lately she'd been acting up. Pesky electrical problems. And I began to wonder if perhaps it was time to really consider a new (used) car. But who wants a car payment and higher insurance premiums. Though, I had been putting some money aside every so often, so at least I would have a down payment.

So I did a local search on the Internet for used Foresters. And there it was. A 2006 XT in a color I could actually appreciate. Just enough bells and whistles to feel comfortable. The perfect vehicle for me. But old habits like to rear their ugly heads, and I just couldn't justify the expense, what with the economy about to go nuts and all. Maybe I could wait a little longer before giving in.

Then I had to make a trip down south of Indy to visit a church member in the hospital. The battery light had been winking at me earlier in the day, but after a call to the mechanic (the one I have kept in business), he assured me things were probably okay. Yeah. Probably. Tell that to the alternator that went out. Tell that to the battery that went dead. Oh, and just for kicks, tell the radiator with its lovely slow leak.

So on the side of the road. Some random road. I had no idea where the hell I was. I had a come to Jesus moment. As if God were saying to me, how blatant a sign do you need? Get the darned car. Do you need a smack upside the head?

And jumping ahead 24 hours, after a long afternoon at the dealership, I am now the proud (but still second-guessing...did I pay too much?) owner of a 2006 Subaru Forester XT. Blue in color, leather heated seats, big ol' honking sun roof, turbo engine (not sure I needed that, but the speedometer goes up to 150....in theory, anyway), and all wheel drive.

I take it back to the dealer tomorrow for a clean-up, a couple extra keys, an owner's manual...and they really need to explain this alarm system so the car quits honking at me at inopportune times.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Beloved friend, Anne
Much too soon.
You will be missed.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

One Day at a Time

I told her that there were very few people in this world for whom I would get out of bed at 3:30 a.m. She could hear the smile in my voice over the phone line. Of course I would come pray with her before her surgery. She's one of my dear friends. Has been for years. But when she introduced me to her surgeon as her pastor, I had to take a step back. Of all the pastors on staff at the Big Church, she wanted me to come.

I can still remember getting to know Anne on our first mission trip together. I was barely more than a visitor to the church when I signed up for the trip to Washington. There's another long story there, about how I left the Baptists, completely disgusted by the politics of religion. And how after a two year hiatus, I began church hopping, looking for a place of comfort. How the thoughts of pursuing ministry had been completely crushed.

But Anne welcomed me, a stranger among the mission trip groupies. We became fast friends. She persuaded me to join the church, so I could serve on the mission committee. She encouraged me to rethink my call to ministry. We shared our life stories and supported each other through the good, the bad, and all the times in between. She witnessed my ordination at the Big Church, my installation at the Little Church, and cheered me on from the sidelines.

About a month ago, we shared dinner together with two of our mission trip buddies at our favorite Italian restaurant. These semi-annual meals were a time for the four of us to catch up, laugh and reminisce. The only hint that anything was wrong was how painful it was for Anne to stand up after our dinner. She brushed it off, attributing to an aging body and a muscle strain.
A few days later, more symptoms developed, necessitating a trip to the hospital. The main cancer was in her bladder. It had spread to other organs, her thyroid, and the bones in her spine. The surgery last Friday was to remove what was left of a vertebra, protect the spinal cord, and insert some pins.
Her life, once measured in decades, is now taken a day at a time. Months, perhaps a year, maybe more. How quickly does one's perspective change in the face of blatant mortality. I do not really want to think of a future without her, so for now I won't. She wants me to cook her my famous award-winning white chili for when her family comes to town. It's the least I can do. For now.