Dangerous place, happy thoughts

My day starts early with uninterrupted computer time. That time is even more precious to me now that Cara has parked herself in a war zone. I am everlastingly grateful for the technology that allows me to speak or message her virtually every single day.

I sipped coffee and opened my inbox. Imagine my surprise to see an e-mail entitled: ‘Good news! You’re going to be a grandma again!’ I blinked a little. If that e-mail had come from Dylan and Brittani, it would have been a very exciting thing. However, this e-mail was from Cara. I knew that there was some sort of trick.

Sure enough, the little jokester had gone to play with the animals at the Nowzad Animal Rescue. Predictably, she had fallen head over heels for a large cat. The feeling was reciprocated, and the creature cried pitifully when she left the cattery.

The story, in her words: “Adoption is currently pending for Mack (Maki). We met early this morning, had a chat about potentially becoming a family, and seemed to come to a mutual agreement. After falling in love with the big galug, I was informed that Mack had recently been on an NPR post. He is the orange cat featured in the slide show.” She included the link so I could see my new ‘grandbaby’.

Even as you folks read this, the waiting period should be over, and Cara’s new friend should be home.

Reading the e-mail, I was surprised at the relief which flooded over me. Huge, palpable, all encompassing relief. I was not sure why. Being happy for her was completely understandable, but relief? What was that all about?

I have not been comfortable with Cara’s new job in Kabul. I make no secret of that, even as I acknowledge that her job is an important one. I accept the fact that she is a grown woman capable of making her own decisions. I know that she has a good head on her shoulders, and possesses great common sense.

I’ve handed my girl over to God’s purpose, even as I pray, ‘but please God, please, please, puh-leeeeaze’ I swing between outspoken pride and unspoken fears. She’s happy with what she is doing, and I try to be happy for her, butBUT

Then there was an e-mail: Cara has a cat. Maki, a refugee from the streets of Kabul, a four-year-old lovey, choosing her even as she chose him. I spent most of the day trying to understand my huge sense of relief.

Certainly, it was a good that she was creating her own little nest, surrounding herself with things that would make her happy in her new life. The fact that Mack was an orange cat just like my own Paddy here at home made me believe that as excited as she was about her new job and her new life, well, maybe she was thinking fondly of home, at least just a little. That was a happy thought.

I was also glad that no matter what her day held for her in far away Afghanistan, at the end of it there would always be a large purring cat waiting to greet her at home.

Happy thoughts made perfect sense, but what was that relief about, the sense of a great weight off my shoulders?

During my increasingly frequent late night lay awakes, I’d begun to play her stories over and over in my mind. Burqa’d women climbing and rocking her armored vehicle begging shrilly, about the thin child with hollow eyes who’d begged pitifully to shine her shoes, about the starving cat she’d found, its poor eyes so matted shut that it was blind, mewling. These mental pictures make me cry.

Cara sees these things, but the driver of the armored vehicle cannot stop, for security reasons. The armed guards hustled her past the little girl. Stopping would have been another breach of security. She did not dare to touch the diseased cat, since rabies is epidemic there. I offer up solutions: “What if you” or “Could you” Cara says in a practical voice, “Mom. I cannot fix these problems. But I am here to educate the women who I hope will make a difference.”

She’s sensible. She’s right. I know it, but I’m a woman who has always ‘led with her heart’, and her thinking scares me a little. I prayed that she never witness so much misery that she simply became indifferent to it. Mack certainly was a sign that Cara’s heart was the same one we know and love. As happy as that made me, well, I still didn’t understand that rush of relief over her cat.

The answer came in a Sunday morning sermon. The priest spoke of the kingdom of God, and her belief that we see that kingdom when we see good people who are trying to do good things in our troubled world. She went on, evoking lovely imagery of goodness taking root and spreading.

In a flash, I understood my relief. In the middle of all the chaos and all the inhumanity, and all the ugliness that is Kabul, there is also a shelter that collects street animals. There are people who commit themselves to educating women. Even in a war zone, there is kindness and people doing good things. Even in Kabul, the kingdom of God can be found.

The relief washed over me once again. I bowed my head, and I was grateful.