One day, we heard a cat meowing in the hallway. Jack dashed to the door and let him in. When I was growing up, our family didn't have pets, and I didn't give much thought to having an animal companion as an adult, so it didn't matter to me if the cat came in or not. Jack had always had cats in his family, though, so when the cat continued to visit us, meowing outside our door for admittance, Jack would always bring him inside. One day, I was writing at the kitchen table when the cat came for a visit. He got up on the chair beside me, and I found myself looking into the most beautiful green eyes I had ever seen. On other occasions, he would walk around and rub up against my legs as I washed dishes at the sink. Little by little, this short, fluffy bundle of love stole my heart.
Then it happened. I started looking forward to the cat's visits. That's when I knew I was hooked. We fed him regularly, and he would stay with us for long periods of time. One night, he didn't want to leave, and he slept on a rocking chair in the living room. Finally, I discovered that he belonged to Judy, who lived downstairs. "Your cat has been coming by to visit us," I told her, "and he stayed overnight a couple of times. I hope you weren't worried about him."
Judy told me that she would be getting married in a couple of months, and she didn't know what to do with this eight-year-old cat. Her fiance had a dog who couldn't tolerate other animals. That was when I decided that we would adopt this cat who had stolen our hearts. We named him Pete, a name I had always liked. I thought "Pete Shanahan" had a nice sound to it.
At the time when we adopted Pete, Jack was going to night school and was busy most of the time, so Pete and I kept each other company. Pete would get up with us in the morning and have breakfast. He was always very vocal about being fed promptly. He slept on our bed, usually lying on my legs all night. He sat on my lap in the evening, napped in my arms, and played toy and flashlight games with Jack. Pete was a good sport. He would let us put a little rubber duck on his head, which amused us immensely. At Christmas, Pete was very cooperative when I put a Santa hat on him and asked him to pose for our Christmas card. He loved sitting under the Christmas tree. When I brought the tree into the house and leaned it against the wall before setting it up, Pete would sit under it, ready to start the celebrations right away. He loved to open Christmas presents and exchange gifts and cards with his grandma and auntie every year.
Fourteen wonderful years went by, during which time we moved from the condo to a house. One day, Pete sat in the bay window of our dining room. I went over to him and noticed a beautiful, purewhite cat outside, sitting directly in front of the window. The white cat stared up at Pete. I called Jack to come see this white cat, who seemed to be in a trance as she gazed at Pete. A couple of minutes after Jack joined us, the cat vanished from sight.
I immediately ran outside to leave some food for the white cat in case she came back. But I had an uneasy feeling that this had been no ordinary cat. There are very few outdoor cats in our neighborhood. We'd never seen this white cat before, and we haven't seen her since. I couldn't get the thought out of my mind that this was a beautiful feline angel, or an angel in the appearance of a cat, ready to take Pete to heaven. Later that night, I asked Jack if we could pray for Pete, and we did. Within a couple of weeks, Pete had a heart attack and passed away.
Pete had lived to be nearly twenty-two years old, which is a long life for a cat, but not enough when you love someone. He enjoyed a very loving life with us and was sick only the last year of his life. Even though it pains us deeply that he is gone, we know he's with the Lord in heaven, waiting for us to join him someday.
On December 15, 2002, exactly one year after Pete had passed away, I was moping around the house feeling depressed. I looked out the window and noticed that it had been snowing. Later, I looked out the back window toward the place where we had buried Pete. Then I saw a cross of snow on the big rock we'd placed over Pete's grave. I wondered why there wasn't any snow on the rest of the rock; snow covered the trees, the grass, and everything else. But on the rock, the snow had only formed the shape of a cross.
After the snow melted, I went out to look at the rock and found that there was a branch on it, which had formed the vertical part of the cross. An indentation in the rock had made the horizontal segment of the cross. We have photos of the rock fully covered with snow and other photos of the rock with snow melting on it. We also now have a photo of the rock with its Cross of Snow. The branch remained on the rock throughout the winter, but we never saw the Cross of Snow again--only on the first anniversary of Pete's passing.
I know that the Cross of Snow on Pete's grave on the first anniversary of his passing was a sign from God that Pete is alive and well in heaven. He gave us this sign to comfort us and reaffirm our beliefs. I believe that God wants us to share this story with all those who are feeling pain at the loss of their animal companions. It's true that God preserves people and animals, as it says in Psalm 36:6:
Your righteousness is like the great mountains,
Your judgments are a great deep
0 Lord, you preserve man and beast.
I often wonder what it's like in heaven and what everybody is doing. Sometimes I imagine Pete playing with the other animals there, perhaps riding a big elephant. I'm sure he's spending time with my dad, who passed away forty days before Pete did. Now, whenever I feel sad about Pete being gone, I stop and think, "I have something to look forward to. I'm going home to Pete someday, and we're going to live forever in heaven." After ten thousand years go by, I'm going to turn to Pete and say, "Well, son, what do you want to do today?"