Archive of Letters to My Friends:

Miss Gabbie


Miss Gabbie

January 2001

By the Rev. Jon Rieley-Goddard

Miss Sparkie in all her glory.


Dear friends,

    Miss Gabbie was a black cat, and she loved my wife, the Reverend, right down to the ground. How many times had I seen the two of them, the smaller draped over the larger, two girls sharing a quiet and wonderful moment.

     Then Miss Gabbie died, and Lord did we cry, and cry. I've been owned by several cats in my life, and Miss Gabbie was one of the best. Often when I talk to her sister, Miss Sparkie, I wonder why she lives and her sister doesn't. I find myself wondering how much longer we will enjoy our Sparkie.

     I read in the newspapers that researchers at Texas A&M University have copied a cat by cloning a female domestic shorthair called cc, which stands for Copycat. The news story that I read cautions that a cloned animal isn't a copy of the one that went before. Colors can be different, personality (presumably) will be different, and there will be no bond from before.

     “This is a reproduction, not a resurrection,” the head researcher said.

     And I say, Why bother?

     How wonderful it would be if pets didn't die, if people didn't die. Never mind that the poet T.S. Eliot said that the Sibyl, the one in Greek mythology who asked for eternal life and forgot to include a wish for eternal heath, had one thing to whisper from the ashes of her misunderstood hopes: “I want to die.”

    Pets do die, and people do die, and now that we can clone our pets, and people won't be far behind, it seems safe to say, Why bother? If I get a copy of the one I love, and that copy has no certain correspondence to the original beyond the level of DNA, why bother?

     I guess that there would be some powerful associations with the clone no matter what developed and that this could be healing, or satisfying, or whatever, but why bother?

     When our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, dead and buried, his followers went into a dark room and closed the door. They were devastated, and terrified. They were like little bobbing boats quickly filling with water. Three days later they were transformed, and reinvigorated.

   Jesus had risen. The same. The same personality. The same beautiful face to die for. The same master with the confusing but curiously comforting ways. Jesus himself, in the flesh. And he wasn't a clone, and after three days, and the inevitable stench, he certainly could not be said to have been resuscitated. He was dead, and now was alive again.

     Resurrection, not resuscitation. Resurrection, not cloning. This wasn't a copycat Jesus; it was Jesus himself – older, wiser, and kinder. More stern and beautiful than ever. The followers were amazed; Peter was giddy with joy.

     The clock was ticking.

     In another 40 days, Jesus would depart from them again, ascending into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, to intercede for us. The followers didn't know that the clock was ticking, and when the time can to say goodbye again, the gospel writer Matthew tells us, “Some doubted.”

     Finally, a word of sense.

     I doubt that I will ever be able to fully understand, or explain, resurrection, even though I can distinguish resurrection from resuscitation or cloning. I doubt that I ever will hear or retell the story without a twinge of doubt, fear, and trembling. However, that is just fine with me. As a wise member of our church is fond of saying: There are true stories, and there are stories that are true.

     When Miss Sparkie dies, I won't save any of her, to preserve her DNA. I'll probably bury her in the backyard next to her sister, and I'll cry my eyes out, but I won't hold out for a second go-round. Once is enough, because it has to be enough, and because our God loves us but does not coddle us or shield us from our pain, or pleasure.

     I can't write about these things without a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Pets are like that. Pets bring us as close to God’s love as we possibly can be, and help us to stay there in that loving presence for a long time, because pets can't talk. Those who love us and also can talk are likely to say “I love you” with one breath and “when are you going to do the dishes?” with the next breath. Does that mean that the loved ones who talk love us less?

     I thank God for Miss Gabbie, for Miss Sparkie, and especially for Miss Cathy, who can talk and love at the same time. I thank God for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who continues to both love and talk to me and anyone else with ears to listen with.

     Clone Miss Sparkie?

     Why bother? I'd rather just enjoy the time that I have and will have with her.

     Resurrection? Why bother? Here's why: Because if God doesn't raise his Son, we stay in the gutter, in the dark, trembling and hoping to die soon to end our despair.

     I'll tell you a story that is true. Jesus lives. Born, murdered, born anew in glory. Alive now. Talking, talking, talking. Can you hear?

     We'll never be the same again.

     Thanks be to God!

     Blessings and peace to you,

     Pastor Jon

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