In memory of Opie and Shae Hamrick
By Glenda Reynolds
What a contrast to experience beautiful spring weather in the month of May while a 9-year old cat lay up against the house among the filth, his hours of life counting down. In his weakened condition, he couldn’t even muster enough strength or interest to chase the pigeons that flocked by the dozens to the backyard to devour the birdseed scattered on the ground. Not so with Mr. Squirrel. Once Mr. Squirrel was settled at the bird feeder, the orange and white cat named Opie would chase him up the palm tree. The squirrel artfully made his lightning-fast exit down the palm and to the privacy fence with plans to visit another day. Opie knew that something was wrong with his body, especially when he was forced to go to the veterinarian the day before. The bad news was given to his owners that he had an enlarged heart and fluid in his lungs. If only cats could talk, it wouldn’t have been such a shock. How could such a beautiful cat that was counted like a family member, that provided emotional support to his owners, slip through their fingers with his quickly declining health?
Opie felt a need to visit the old bayou where he spent many a day chasing lizards and green frogs and whatever else gained his interest. The bayou served as a disconnect from the world which meant no loud vehicles or rap music from obnoxious neighbors; no electronic devices, just nature. His eyes squinted against the bright sun as he crawled through the hole in the fencing and slowly made his way to Pilgrim Bayou just a few acres away.
When Opie arrived at the Bayou, he saw his neighbor Sharna sitting on the ground with her knees drawn up and crying uncontrollably. Even though she was in her early sixties, Sharna needed a walker to get around. It laid on its side to the right of her. She had been fighting cancer for a long time; the cancer was winning. Her once creamy skin was now tinged with yellow. The pain was too great to bear. Her treatments and medication left her bank accounts drained. She considered selling her property. Some friends chipped in some funds to ease her burden. It was a miracle that she even made it to Pilgrim Bayou. Opie came to rub his face against her leg as he offered her comfort. Her heart was warmed as she ran her fingers through his thick fur.
Ripples in the water got their attention as Big Bertha, a 13-foot alligator swam to the edge of the water to greet them. In the past, Sharna often fed Bertha chicken scraps while Opie looked on. After all, Opie was a curious cat, always checking out new things. But unbeknownst to Sharna and Opie, a Burmese python had quietly made its way behind them. Sharna screamed with fright as she stumbled backward toward the water, the python following close behind. She grabbed Opie in her arms. She found herself on uneven stubby ground. She looked down in horror, seeing she was now on the back of Big Bertha. As if on cue, Bertha wheeled around and headed into deeper waters.
“This could be worse,” she said to herself. And then it was.
It would seem that the python put out a “hit” on the human and the cat. Boa constrictors and yellow and green anacondas began to slither to and over the banks of the bayou. She had never encountered a single snake in all her years in visiting Pilgrim Bayou. What was so special about today? It was as if these snakes were indeed demonic beings, sent there to drag her body and soul down into the murky waters. Bertha did a sweeping motion of her tail when the snakes got too close. The iguanas flicked their tongues out as they looked down from the branches of maple trees. Until now a flock of pristine white egrets were feeding in an adjoining waterway. More anacondas and boa constrictors sent them to flight. Big Bertha kept them at bay with her huge tail.
Up ahead there was a strange sight: a tiny island with a layer of clouds and a colorful bridge. Bertha swam over to the edge. The small island “called” to Opie. He willingly jumped from the alligator to the island. He looked back only once. With slow steps, Opie crossed the Rainbow Bridge and was gone forever. Sharna looked on in awe. A tear slid down her cheek. She was jerked back to the present when Bertha continued through the bayou.
The number of snakes increased as they continued their assault on the frail human. There was unearthly hissing. Despair filled her heart. This is not the end that she imagined.
A stream of flaming fire startled her. There was a dragon in Pilgrim Bayou. It was burning up the demonic snakes and alligators. Other snakes and reptiles retreated to the shadows beyond. The dragon lowered its head and blinked at Sharna. She placed her hand on its face as a way to thank it for saving her.
Up ahead there was an angel standing near a golden chariot and white-winged horse. Bertha came to rest at the bank. Sharna made her leap onto dry land.
“Your chariot awaits you, my lady,” said the regal angel.
Without words or hesitation, Sharna boarded the chariot. She held on tight while the winged horse made them airborne to the heavenly realms, forever in the presence of God.