Ode to Bandit (And Beloved Animals Everywhere)

One year ago today, I made the sad announcement that my beloved Bandit had died.

Journal Entry, 2/27/19 AM: “Bandit is not doing well. Please take him, Lord, to end his suffering.”

February 27, 2019. The day was cold, and it was raining hard. Bandit was 14 years old, had lost a lot of weight, and could barely walk. But that morning, while he was outside — he did love to play in the rain — Bandit found the strength to make his way through a fully-fenced backyard in search of a solitary place to die.

When I arrived home from work, the rain was still coming down, as it had been all day. Then, I heard the news. Bandit had not been seen since 10:00 that morning.

It is safe to say that I went into a bit of shock. When I left Bandit that morning, he had spent thirty minutes in my arms. Yes, I had prayed to God for his suffering to end, but I could not have imagined that his taking would be in such a heartbreaking way. When I heard that Bandit was lost, my mind saw him in terrible ways: lying under a bush, alive, cold and soaked, still suffering and near death; dead and covered with the things that crawl from the earth to consume corpses; and worst — dead, in the middle of some nearby street, picked to pieces by crows.

I cried loudly as I rushed through the front and back yards, peering under bushes and cars, calling his name, all to no avail. I tried to pull myself together as I called the City animal shelter and gave Bandit’s description.

My dear neighbors, Tom and Nancy, placed a “Lost Animal” report in NextDoor to get the word out in the area.

Nothing.

Journal Entry, 2/27/19 PM: Love that cat so much. I hope he isn’t suffering. God sent that cat to me during the horrible days of divorce, when I felt lonely and rejected. Bandit was so affectionate from Day One and to the end. I knew the end was near. Still, I wanted him to die in my arms — not alone.

That evening was the first time in decades I had trouble sleeping. Where was Bandit? I assumed he was dead. The worst part of it was not knowing what he had gone through and where he had died. It cut into my heart like a twisting knife.

Journal Entry, 2/28/19 PM: He’s in God’s hands — that’s where. Peace in that, but sad that he’s not here while he’s so old and frail. Strange how things change in a blink. God allowed this bit of tragedy. One of the saddest days of my life. I miss him. I wonder why God took him from me in this way. I want to bury his little body if it’s somewhere outside.

We love our pets like they are members of the family, don’t we?

Bandit had become a star on Facebook, with his feline perfection and ability to give me great joy. I received many comments of condolence. How is it that a human being can be so in love with a creature who can only speak to you with a lick to the face or a paw to the cheek — or a purr as he nestles, for the last time, in your lap, enjoying your hand-strokes across his fur, and looks up at you with complete adoration while you wonder what you did to deserve such unconditional love.

Journal Entry, 3/1/19 PM: SOMEONE FOUND BANDIT!! The Cat and Bird Clinic left a message for me in response to the lost ad. A woman found him Wed AM and took him to the clinic. Thank you, God! Bandit had not been outside very long. The clinic put him on an IV, but he died there on Thursday, 2/28/19. So grateful to God that He led a person to Bandit, and that he was with people dedicated to helping cats specifically. I will never be able to give back to God what He gave me by providing a safe, warm, loving place for my beloved Bandit to die if he couldn’t be with me.

Bandit had been in God’s hands, and I knew that he would be, but this? As I spoke with the clinic, I imagined the expert treatment and care that Bandit received there. What’s more, the woman who found him PAID for the care. I mumbled my thanks through bittersweet tears, and said I would mail a check to reimburse the kind woman.

Bandit was cremated there.

Journal Entry, 3/3/19 AM: Last night I dreamed that Bandit was here, but I was the only one who could see him.

Last week, one of our students came to school in tears. Her pet dog had died, and she was visibly sad the entire day. I was able to speak with her about Bandit and how I was still mourning him a full year after his death. She said, “I’m so sorry,” and I know she completely understood. We consoled each other over the loss of good friends.

During lunch that day, I pulled out my novel and came to the chapter where the family had agreed to keep a lost dog. I was astonished as I read this: “Mma Ramotswe was touched by the sight. There was something particularly appealing, she thought, about children lavishing care on an animal. They were repaying, in a way, the love and care given to them, showing that the message that we should look after one another had not fallen on stony ground. A child who loved a pet was showing the love that would in due course be given to another, and that was a reassurance. Love was like rain: there could be periods of drought when it seemed that love would never return, would never make its presence felt again. In such times, the heart could harden, but then, just as droughts broke, so too could love suddenly appear, and heal just as quickly and completely as rain can heal the parched land.” (From Precious and Grace, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series, #17, by Alexander McCall Smith)

“They were, in a way, repaying the love and care given to them.” As a child of God, I felt as if I was receiving a lesson from Him through this author’s beautiful words. My love for Bandit was another way for me to “repay” the love and care God has given to me. Bandit was a gift, and loving him was thanking the Giver. With that, I shall always remember my beloved Bandit as one who gave me the opportunity to show love for my awesome God.

Journal Entry 3/5/19 AM: I miss Bandit’s presence. A sweet creature to pour love and care into — now I can give that to someone else. Whom shall it be?

Maybe it’s time to “repay” God again in this way. Kitten or adult cat? [Update: I adopted a cat in March 2020, right when COVID hit!]

Children, Cookies, and Frank in Uganda

I was sweeping the front sidewalk when three boys approached me.

“Hi! Would you like to buy a cookie to support Frank?”

Who??

They presented their “Support Frank” flyer. No misspelled words. Good grammar. Neat handwriting. And the boys were so polite and well versed as they told me about Frank and his dire circumstances. They even had a bowl of cookie bites for me to sample before buying. Genius!

“How much?” I asked.

“Well, the price is pretty steep. Two dollars each.”

“That is steep. But I’m not only paying for a cookie, right?”

“Right!”

“I’m paying to support …”

“Frank! Yeah!”

“What are your names?” They told me. “I’m Mrs. McDavid. I live right here, so be sure to stop by and let me know how Frank’s support is going.”

One of the boy was looking at me quizzically. “Hey! I think I know you! From Laguna Blanca!”

He told me his name. Sure enough, I recognized him as a former student. How could I forgot the little redhead? He was visiting his friend who lives in the neighborhood.

We chatted about how things were going for him at his new school. Then, I got an idea.

“I’ll be right back.” I went inside, grabbed some money and my cellphone, and returned to the boys, who were still smiling and waiting patiently for this old lady.

“Can I take a photo of Frank? I want to remember who I’m supporting.”

They thought that was pretty cool.

“Okay, now. Here’s two dollars for my expensive cookie.”

“Thank you” after “Thank you” came freely from the boys. Genuine and appreciative.

“Oh, wait,” I said, and with much drama I pulled a five dollar bill from my pocket. “More for Frank because you boys are so nice!”

That floored them. “Wow!” and “Thank you!” and “Really?”

I was having a thoroughly great time with this, and the boys didn’t seem to mind my silliness as we talked about my money trick. However, it was time to get back to my yard work.

“Goodbye, friends! I’m proud of you! I hope you get a lot of support for Frank!”

They started to leave, but my redhead friend stopped and said, with a hint of concern, “Would you like another cookie for that?”

This time it was I who was floored.

“No, no, no. Keep it all for Frank.”

They waved and left, and I thought about the innocence of youth. Thank God for it.

When I saw the trio headed for a neighbor’s door, I yelled, “Tell them Darla sent you!”


Thumbs up to the parents of these gems! The homemade cookie was delicious, too!

But Now She Sees

I had the privilege of singing “Amazing Grace” this afternoon at the memorial service for a dear woman and longtime member of my church. Rosemary was 97 when she died. Her losses of hearing and sight began when she was in her fifties.

To end the hymn, I planned to repeat the first verse, the last line being “Was blind but now I see” — a reference to the author’s spiritual change after becoming a Christian.

But it turns out that God wanted something different. For when it came time for me to sing that last line, the words we all heard instead were — through no prior thought of my own — “She was blind, but now she sees.”

My voice shook and tears fell as I sang those words directly to Sue, Rosemary’s daughter, from whom I sensed a beautiful peace. I cannot adequately describe this precious moment, but I hope you get at least some idea from what I write here.

Rosemary sees. After 40 years. Now. In heaven gazing clearly at her God with love and awe.

I tell you, there is no greater joy for me than singing the Truth.