Faith's final wish was to find "a retirement of gentleness" for Mango, her sole companion of many years. Friendship, loyalty, determination, and some synchronicity helped this wish come true.
Faith was a well-respected child welfare attorney and many believed she would become a judge. But in her mid-forties, just after opening her own practice, Faith was struck by a massive stroke that left her paralyzed, unable to speak or move anything but her left arm. Because her insurance had not yet transferred from her former position to her new practice, she lost everything: her home, all her possessions, her financial independence and even her much loved pets.
For the first eight years after the stroke, Faith lived in a nursing home. Fortunately, she was eventually able to move to a nearby assisted living facility. With no family and only a few close friends, she lived a primarily solitary and often lonely life. She longed for companionship and missed sharing her life with a cat. After much discussion and planning, a friend agreed to help her adopt a cat.
Mango was nine years old when she was adopted. Prior to living with Faith, Mango had also been abandoned by her family - they were a perfect pair.
Mango was the love of Faith's life. Together they lived a quiet existence and were each other's only companions. Faith was able to type with her left hand and penned several articles for animal friendly publications about the importance of pets in the lives of the severely disabled. Although Mango was sometimes shy, she trusted Faith and spent much of her day curled up at her side. Faith's friends say that Mango gave her life joy and meaning when she had little left to believe in or love.
When Faith passed away in July 2014, her three close friends were determined to find a safe place for Mango. But Mango was 14, shy, obese and not exactly adoptable. Between the three of them they contacted over 50 shelters in the Chicago area. Many shelters did not respond, and those that did said no.
At that time, I was transitioning off the board of Red Door Animal Shelter. Although I wasn't as actively involved, I was still copied on all incoming emails. I didn't respond or even open very many, but for whatever reason, I opened the one about Mango. By the time the story reached me, there were only three days left before Faith's room was to be cleared and Mango out. I didn't think there was much hope, but I put a call out on Facebook as well as through some other rescue networks. Although the story was shared widely, only one person stepped forward to take Mango. Amy already had two other cats and wasn't looking for a third. But she was touched by the story and after volunteering in many shelters, she knew Mango's chances were slim to none.
A year and a half later, Mango has slimmed down and just had a great report from the vet. Aside from being on a restricted diet, she is very healthy for a 15 year old cat. And while Mango has never warmed up to Amy's other two cats, she seems content, peaceful, and relaxed in her new home. She has many comfy beds, lots of bright windows, and most importantly, "a retirement of gentleness" as Faith had wanted.
I hope Faith is at peace and knows that the gentle soul who stayed by her side is now safe and loved by another gentle soul and that the cycle of kindness and compassion continues.
Please consider fostering or adopting a senior or another special needs animal because second chances are amazing whether you are on the receiving or giving side. If you enjoyed this post, please check out my posts on adopting a paralyzed cat and adopting a puppy mill survivor.
Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.