When I first went to our Japanese neighbor's house and met Helen, it was clear to see from the sparkle in Katsu's eyes that she was Daddy’s girl. And the tenderness with which he talked about her disabilities was surprising to hear from a Japanese man. She’d already spent the first fifteen years of her life with only one good eye, and virtually no hearing, but it didn’t seem to have affected her independent spirit. Then again, independence is second nature to... a cat.
With Katsu's affection for Helen, it wasn’t too much of a surprise that when we started the book of Genesis in our Sunday evening Bible study, he was very interested in the creation of animals… and man… and the difference between them.
“What does it mean that God breathed life into man?”
“So do animals have souls?”
“If animals don’t have souls, will there be animals in heaven?”
All I could say was. . .
“Well, I don’t know. The Bible talks about horses in heaven, but it doesn’t say anything about cats. I guess we’ll just have to wait for the answer to that one!”
One morning a few months later we got the sad news that Helen, who had not been healthy for some time, had passed away during the night. That evening we walked over to our neighbor's home and Katsu and his wife, Hideko, soberly led us to the back yard where they had buried Helen. After we had stood for a few moments in respectful silence, Katsu, with a tear glistening in the corner of his eye, turned to me and said,
“I know animals don’t have souls, but could you just say a little prayer?”
“Of course,” I replied, and then and there I lifted up the first prayer I’ve ever offered at the graveside of a cat.
“Our Heavenly Father, thank you for your wonderful Creation, and the great joy you give us in enjoying the creatures you have made. Please comfort Katsu and Hideko in the loss of Helen, who has shared so many years together with them.”
As Barbara and I obeyed God’s command in Rom 12:15 to “mourn with those who mourn,” that evening the bond between the four of us grew one step stronger, and Katsu and Hideko learned just a little bit more about God’s loving interest in every detail of their lives.
(P.S. Katsu and Hideko have now both trusted in Christ and been baptized!)