I moved into my Kirkland, WA apartment in July, secured a job as a paralegal early August, and on September 24, 1994, I received a Saturday phone call from my father, telling me that my mother had died in her sleep the night before.
Other than my brother and his family who lived nearby, I had very few acquaintances that early in my Washington state residency. Those who have gone through this type of emotional disruption know that while dealing with the rawness of grief, other matters require immediate attention. For me it was getting together with my brother and his wife that same day, making airline reservations to Honolulu, Hawaii – where my parents lived – and notifying business associates of our need to suspend all work activities so we could gather around our father who had just suffered the loss of his wife of forty-eight years.
There was one detail that needed attention in my household: my two cats who would be left on their own for, what turned out to be, a two week period of time. What’s a person to do?
I had seen and said hello to my upstairs neighbor and her Great Dane a few times but as yet hadn’t truly met and gotten to know her. I traipsed upstairs, knocked on her door, but she was not home.
Back downstairs I wrote a note explaining my emergent situation, asking if there was any chance she could check on my cats daily, feed them twice a day and fill their water bowls, and empty their litter box. I told her I would be home all day preparing for the next day’s departure and she could either call me or come downstairs and knock on my door. After placing the note in the crack of her door, I went downstairs to finalize my packing.
An hour later, she knocked on my door, pulled me into a hug, cried with me, and gladly offered her assistance in my time of need. I returned two weeks later to find two very healthy and happy cats in my apartment. Turns out she didn’t just perform the perfunctory feeding and litter box tasks, she played with my cats, even buying additional cat toys to entertain them on a daily basis so they would receive the love and attention I would have normally paid them.
That started a delightful friendship of going on walks, spending dinners with each other, and sharing in each other’s lives. Tragedy ushered in a kindness that greatly improved my life going forward.
I found hope in the midst of tragedy.