The tabby kitten stopped. Behind him, other kitties were playing, chasing each other and wrestling in the warm sunshine. It looked like so much fun, but in front of him, through the clear stillness of the pond’s water, he could see his mommy. And she was crying. He pawed at the water, trying to get to her, and when that didn’t work, he jumped into the shallow water. All that got him was wet and Mommy’s image danced away in the ripples. “Mommy!” he cried. “Is something wrong?”
The kitten turned around. A strange lady was standing at the edge of the pond, her eyes sad but filled with love. The kitten sighed and walked out of the water.
“There’s been a mistake,” he said. “I’m not supposed to be here.” He looked back at the water. The ripples were fading and the water was still again. His mommy’s image was returning. “I’m just a baby. Mommy said I wasn’t supposed to come here yet.”
The kind lady sighed and sat down on the grass. The kitten climbed into her lap. It wasn’t Mommy’s lap, but it was almost as good. When the lady started to pet him and scratch under his chin the way he liked, he started to purr. He didn’t want to, but he couldn’t help it.
“I’m afraid there is no mistake. You are supposed to be here and your mommy knows it deep down in her heart,” the lady said. The kitten sighed and laid his head on the lady’s leg.
“But she’s so sad. It hurts me to see her cry. And daddy too.”
“They knew right from the beginning this would happen.”
“That I was sick?” That surprised the kitten. No one had ever said anything and he had listened when they thought he was sleeping. All he had heard them talk about was how cute he was or how fast he was or how big he was getting.
“No, not that you were sick,” the lady said. “But you see, they chose tears.”
“No, they didn’t,” the kitten argued. “Who would choose to cry?”
The lady gently brushed the top of his head with a kiss. It made him feel safe and loved and warm, but he still worried about his mommy. “Let me tell you a story,” the lady said.
The kitten looked up and saw other animals gathering around. Many cats; Big Boy and Snowball and Shamus and Abby and little Cleo and Robin; Dogs too; Sally and Baby and Morgan and Rocky and Belle. Even a lizard named Clyde and some rats named Saffron and Becky and a hamster named Odo. They all lay down near the kind lady and looked up at her, waiting. She smiled at them and began her tale.
A long long time ago, the Loving Ones went to the Angel in Charge. They were lonesome and asked the angel to help them. The angel took them to a wall of windows and let them look out the first window at all sorts of things — dolls and stuffed animals and cars and toys and sporting events. “Here are things you can love,” the angel said. “They will keep you from being lonesome.”
“Oh, thank you,” the Loving Ones said. “These are just what we need.”
“You have chosen Pleasure,” the angel told them.
But after a time the Loving Ones came back to the Angel in Charge. “But they don’t care that we love them.” The Angel in Charge led them over to the second window. It looked out at all sorts of wild animals.
“Here are animals to love,” he said. “They will know you love them.” So the Loving Ones hurried out to care for the wild animals. “You have chosen Satisfaction,” the angel said. Some of the Loving Ones worked at zoos and wild animal preserves, some just had bird feeders in their yards, but after a time they all came back to the Angel in Charge.
“They know we love them,” they told the angel. “But they don’t love us back. We want to be loved in return.” So the angel took them to the third window and showed them lots of people walking around, hurrying places. “Here are people for you to love,” the angel told them. So the Loving Ones hurried off to find other people to love.
“You have chosen Commitment,” the angel said.
But after a time a lot of Loving Ones came back to the Angel in Charge.
“People were okay to love,” they said. “But sometimes they stopped loving us and left. They broke our hearts.” The angel just shook his head. “I cannot help you,” he said. “You will have to be satisfied with the choices I gave you.” As the Loving Ones were leaving, someone saw a window off to one side and hurried to look out. Through it, they could see puppies and kittens and dogs and cats and lizards and hamsters and ferrets. The other Loving Ones hurried over.
“What about these?” they asked. But the angel just tried to shoo them away. “Those are Personal Empathy Trainers,” he said. “But there’s a problem with their system operations.”
“Would they know that we love them?” someone asked.
“Yes,” the angel said.
“Would they love us back?” another asked.
“Yes,” the angel said.
“Will they stop loving us?” someone else asked.
“No,” the angel admitted. “They will love you forever.”
“Then these are what we want,” the Loving Ones said. But the angel was very upset.
“You don’t understand,” he told them. “You will have to feed these animals. You will have to clean up after them and take care of them forever.” The Loving Ones did not listen. They went down to where the Pets were and picked them up, seeing the love in their own hearts reflected in the animals’ eyes.
The angel warned. “We can’t offer a warranty. We don’t know how durable they are. Some of their systems malfunction very quickly, others last a long time.” But the Loving Ones did not care. They were holding the warm little bodies and finding their hearts so filled with love that they thought they would burst.
“We will take our chances,” they said.
The angel tried one more time. “They are so dependent on you that even the most well-made of them is not designed to outlive you. You are destined to suffer their loss.” The Loving Ones looked at the sweetness in their arms and nodded.
“That is how it should be. It is a fair trade for the love they offer.” The angel just watched them all go, shaking his head.
“You have chosen Tears,” he whispered.
“So it is,” the kind lady told the kitten. “And so each mommy and daddy knows when they take a kitten into their heart, they know that one day it will leave them and they will cry.” The kitten sat up.
“So why do they take us in?” he asked.
“Because even a moment of your love is worth years of pain later.”
Satisfied, the kitten jumped off the lady’s lap and went back to the edge of the pond. His mommy was still there, and still crying. “Will she ever stop crying?” he asked the kind lady. She nodded.
“You see, the Angel felt sorry for the Loving Ones, knowing how much they would suffer. He couldn’t take the tears away but he made them special.” She dipped her hand into the pond and let the water trickle off her fingers. “He made them healing tears, formed from the special water here. Each tear holds bits of all the happy times of purring and petting and shared love. And the promise of love once again. As your mommy cries, she is healing. It may take a long while, but the tears will help her feel better. In time she will be less sad and she will smile when she thinks of you. And then she will open her heart again to another little kitty.”
“But then she will cry again one day,” the little kitten said. The lady just smiled at him as she got to her feet.
“No, she will love again. That is all she will think about.” She picked up Big Boy and Snowball and gave them hugs, then scratched Morgan’s ear just how she liked. “Look,” she said. “The butterflies have come. Shall we go over to play?” The other animals all ran ahead, but the little kitten wasn’t ready to leave his mommy.
“Will I ever get to be with her again?” he inquired. The kind lady nodded.
“You’ll be in the eyes of every kitty she looks at. You’ll be in the purr of every cat she pets. And late at night, when she’s fast asleep, your spirit will snuggle up close to her and you both will feel at peace. One day soon, you can even send her a rainbow to tell her you’re safe and waiting here for when it’s her turn to come.”
“I would like that,” the kitten said and took one long look at his mommy. He saw her smile slightly through her tears and he knew she had remembered the time he almost fell into the bathtub. “I love you, Mommy,” he whispered. “It’s okay if you cry.” He glanced over at the others, running and playing and laughing with the butterflies. Then he turned and raced after the others.