An Angel Without Wings Restored My Spiritual Sight

"Of course there are angels," said one of the two clergymen who are frequent commentators on spirituality for the national morning news show I watch. "Sometimes," the older cleric added, "even people are really our angels." Looking at Shadow, the ginger tabby who lay sleeping on the sofa beside me, I added, "And animals."

My life had taken a difficult turn when Shadow, a former stray cat, appeared on our patio two years earlier. At the time I met him, I wasn't looking for a fourth cat, or an angel. But I needed one.

I had started loosing my vision. This made it necessary for me to leave a career in occupational therapy at a local psychiatric hospital, and I missed my role as a nurturer. My resilience ebbed daily. It was hard adjusting to my changing identity and believing in my own worth. I certainly wasn't ready to accept the esoteric idea that angels could help me with the changes I faced.

Around this time of transition, a neighbor reported seeing a stray cat. I decided to set out bowls of food and water. Each morning, the bowls were spotlessly clean, but I hadn't yet seen my elusive visitor. Occasionally, I saw a blur streak through a bush. Is this a shadow or a stray? I wondered. With my vision deteriorating, I couldn't be sure. Then one morning a cat purred and brushed against my legs as I filled the bowls.

When he finally let me see his rough, dirty fur, the timid creature might have been charitably described as "ordinary." But I knew intuitively from our first meeting that this cat was special. He began to appear, as if out of nowhere, when I opened the front door. When he became comfortable around me, he even welcomed gentle stroking. He seemed to sense that I couldn't see him clearly because he always signaled his presence with a meow or physical contact. Then he started the routine of following me when I walked around our condominium complex. And I began to wonder, Who is the real caretaker in this relationship?

Reprinted from Angel Animals -- Exploring Our Spiritual Connection with Animals by Allen and Linda Anderson © 1999 Permission granted by PLUME, a division of PENGUIN GROUP (USA)

This cat seemed to know what I wanted him to do before I mentioned it. If he followed my husband and me to our car, I asked him to return to the lawn and stay safely out of traffic's way. Much to my husband's amazement, the stray cat trotted back to the grass and curled up. I began to suspect that the cat, who now answered to Shadow, had a plan, and that plan included me.

I worried about Shadow when he wasn't around. I didn't think that I could bring a feral cat indoors with three pampered house cats. Each night when Shadow appeared on our patio to say goodnight, I wondered if he'd be safe and if I'd find him sitting by the bowls the next morning. Then I noticed that Shadow was inspiring even more uncharacteristic behavior in me. I found myself stroking his head each night and saying to him, "Go with God, Shadow."

In the mornings, as he waited patiently for me to fill his bowels, Shadow tried to reassure me that he was hardy with a purr or a thrust of his head into my hand. We kept up the routine until one cool autumn Saturday. On that day, Shadow rode quietly in his new cat carrier to the vet's for a checkup and vaccinations. Now, it was his turn to adapt to a major life change because Shadow was moving indoors.

At a time when the traumatic physical changes in my life caused me to think I had little love to give, Shadow taught me that I could still nurture. I believe that his adjustment to indoor life was natural and relatively easy because, after all, he was meant to be there.

Shadow found a way to remind me about his role in my life. I mentioned at the beginning of this story that I listened to a national news program in which the clerics talked about angels. I scratched Shadow's head that morning as I turned off the television and asked him, "Do you remember when I used to say, 'Go with God, Shadow'?"

His response to my question astounded me.

Shadow opened his eyes and gazed solemnly at me for a moment. Then he stretched a paw and placed it gently on my heart. And I wondered how I could once not have believed in angels. Especially ones whose wings are hidden beneath fur.

-more inspiring stories-

Reprinted from Angel Animals -- Exploring Our Spiritual Connection with Animals by Allen and Linda Anderson © 1999 Permission granted by PLUME, a division of PENGUIN GROUP (USA)

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