“Homeless and hungry.” That’s what I read on a cardboard sign being held by a person on the side of the road not far from my beloved dog park the other day. As we drove by, I was instantly overcome with empathy for the man.
He looked not that unlike myself when I was in his paws. He was scraggly. Dirty. Generally unkempt. And skinny. Goodness gracious, was he skinny. During my time on the streets, all of these things could have been said of me too. I’m not proud of it. It’s nothing I prefer to broadcast. But I was kind of a mess.
I’ve said before that home is where the heart is. Well, when you don’t have a home neither does your heart. It’s an awful place to be. I’m not going to lie – it was pretty easy to push it out of my mind as I explored my beloved park. It’s one of my happy places, after all.
But when I got home I was reminded. Not just because I was home and warm and enjoying a feast of delicious doggie kibble. It’s because of what happened next. I was enjoying some beautiful rays of sunshine and warmth in my backyard paradise on one of the first warmer days of the year when it happened.
My cat friend Penny came over. She had news. And it wasn’t good. Her person, the person that is home to her, is gone. Dear Rose took a turn for the worse that day and went to heaven, she told me. It’s not my first time hearing about this place called heaven that I frequently dream about. It’s my opinion (mostly because it’s mom’s opinion) that if it’s called heaven it is heaven to whoever goes there. Meaning there is most definitely a place for pets in this place, since I know I would be in mom’s version of heaven.
That’s when I realized dear Penny didn’t seem nearly as lost as I thought she would at the reality of her news. Because that’s when she said something truly profound.
Life is like an airport terminal on our way back home to heaven, she said. Now I’ve never been to an airport terminal, but it is certainly a concept I can wrap my little doggie mind (and heart) around. In that moment, I was overcome with empathy for Penny and her loss, but also for the homeless man.
It might be hard to remember sometimes. Especially when things get rough. But in those moments it is most important that we remember something I was reminded of by Penny today. We may go through bouts where we are hungry, but we are never truly homeless. We all do have a home to return to someday.