It was early October, 2016, and catastrophe was brewing. I knew something was coming, but I didn’t know what, exactly. Hard to describe a feeling like that.
My beloved cat, JJ, who moved with me from the U.S. to Soweto, South Africa many years ago, had passed away the week before. That sweet feline had buffered for me the trials, tragedies, and aloneness during all those years in Soweto, hence his loss was a significant one.
I cannot adequately express my gratitude when a local worker unexpectedly gave me a tiny, malnourished pure white little kitten.
It was quite literally a sacred gift given from the hand of the God who knew *exactly* what was coming.
I sat on my bed with her sleeping purr vibrating on my chest, through my ribcage, soaking deep into the angst in my heart.
This little creature brought me to tears.
I pondered what to name her and within a few short moments it came to me as clear as day: Shiloh.
Her name is Shiloh, which means “Place of Rest.”
I knew deep in my guts a hurricane was brewing of epic proportions, though I did not know what, exactly. And something in me knew I needed a safe place of rest. In the coming days, my baby girl, Shiloh, was like God’s physical hand set on my chest and stilling the torrential rains within.
A couple weeks later, that catastrophic tsunami hit and my world began unraveling a mile a minute.
Is this real? This has to be the Twilight Zone. New information came on a daily basis for nearly a month and each piece brought more shattering. Absolute confusion.
This. Cannot. Be. Real.
Am I in the Matrix?
With every new, suffocating piece of information that threatened the legs underneath me, my mind’s attempts to make sense of it felt suffocating. The reality it painted was mind-bending, threatening to snatch the very breath from my lungs.
Towards the end of that harrowing month as I seemed to live from one new shocking revelation to the next, I found myself sitting for hours in line at the public clinic where my (still very little) boys had their monthly appointments.
After five hours, I had finally made it to the front of the line and was sitting on the bench outside the nurse’s examining room. I stared at the wall and my mind raced.
Suddenly the most ENORMOUS HUMAN I have ever laid eyes on walked in the back door right next to me. Clearly a bodybuilder of some sort, his sheer size towering above me snatched me out of my racing thoughts. His neck had disappeared under his traps and jawbones and, dear God, is he half bear?!
As the blood drained from my face, I noticed something on his nearly-ripping-at-the-biceps-and-pecs-t-shirt. Wait… Is that a… WHAT?! A KITTEN?!?!
I gasped, at which point he turned straight to me and placed the tiny fluff ball in my arms.
WHAT. IN THE. *ACTUAL HELL* IS GOING ON?!
Total confusion. Eclipsed only by total love.
“He does need a home,” the human/bear said with a burly smile.
“There’s no way I could keep anoth-“ interrupted by a baby kitty purr that rumbled like an engine right on my sternum.
You can guess what happened next. He came home. Of course he came home.
On what planet do you find two tiny kittens in the middle of a damn Tsunami. Apparently mine.
For the second time in a month, I pondered what to name the tiny creature vibrating on my chest. And once again, within moments, the answer came: Shalom.
His name is Shalom, meaning “Abiding Peace.”
About three weeks later the Tsunami climaxed and my (still very small) boys and I were launched into 8 straight months of worse-case-scenario transitioning. One place to another, to another, to another…
And at every dogged, exhausting turn, were Shiloh and Shalom. My fluffballs named Rest and Peace.
Shalom was so superchill that I would tuck him inside my sweatshirt and he’d spend a good portion of the day with me everywhere I needed to go, his little fluffhead popping out the top of my zipper.
At every step of the treacherous journey I found myself flanked by Rest and Peace. Literally
When I shuddered at my present reality, Shalom would find a string hanging off my pants and my
hindparts would be assaulted by tiny claws that left him dangling from the back pocket. Rest and Peace.
When I wept for my little children who slept nearby, Shiloh and Shalom would snuggle up into the crevice of my neck, purring. Rest and Peace.
The stress of living out of dufflebags was lightened only by opening one to get a sock and finding Shiloh sleeping inside. Rest and Peace.
Staying in strange places the thick dark of night crept up on me and through those months, Shiloh and Shalom became home to us. Wherever we found ourselves. Rest and Peace.
Because God knew what was comin’ when I didn’t.
So He sent Rest and Peace in the most tender and tangible way possible. Shiloh and Shalom. Their presence became God’s declaration that it was so.
Names mean everything.
And we’re getting’ a new one.