Farewell to Tiny: A Lesson in Hospitality

One of our cats died this weekend. She was something of a hand-me-down, if you will. In oh so many ways.

About eighteen years ago she showed up on my late mother-in-law's doorstep. She was a bit bedraggled, and quite obviously a stray. Hazel loved longhaired cats, and so she decided she'd feed the stray. And the next day, the cat showed up again. And then again and again and again.

"She keeps coming back," she said to my wife.

"Well, you're feeding her, Mom. Of course she keeps coming back!"

"But I'm just giving her some canned tuna and a bit of canned salmon!"

The next day, the cat moved in. When they went to name her, she and my late father-in-law, Cyril, debated what to call her. They had another cat named Tiny. Wouldn't it just be easiest to call this one Tiny Two? And so it was settled. Tiny. Even though she was actually rather large (all that tuna and salmon, I guess!)

Time passed, and Hazel and Cyril needed extra care--so they, along with Tiny, moved in with us. We already had a cat, named Alex. He always stayed upstairs, Tiny lived down. A feline détente of sorts!

Hazel and Cyril's health, though went from bad to worse, and so two years later they had to move into a nursing home. But Tiny wasn't allowed. So she stayed with us. She outlived our dog, Alex the upstairs cat, and got along tentatively with our newest pet, a tortoise shell cat named Nyla.

In the United Church of Christ we talk a lot about extravagant hospitality. And that is most certainly what Hazel offered to Tiny. She welcomed the stranger with open arms (and an open lap!) I'm glad that she did. For all of our lives were enriched over the last eighteen years by the stray who loved salmon.

Now if we could only learn how to do that welcoming of strangers with people as well as Hazel did it with a cat. Wouldn't that make for a better world!

(Photo Credit: Linda Bradbury-Danner)

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