A short time ago, our son Benjamin was released from Samaritan Hospital. He had a bad case of pneumonia. We are so very thankful for the excellent care he received while at the hospital. The doctors, nurses, kitchen and support staff were all wonderful.
Jeanne and I spent a lot of time at the hospital. Our daughter Naomi was also able to make it over from the Seattle area to be at his bedside. There was always a family member in Benjamin’s room, even through the dark of night.
We are grateful that with proper care, Benjamin was able to turn the corner on this illness and is now comfortably resting at home. Thanks be to God. Also, thank you to all who prayed for Benjamin, and for our family, during this ordeal.
On one of those long nights, when Jeanne and I were seated together, I suggested that we entertain some form of temporary distraction. I thought it would be a healthy thing to do. The topic didn’t matter. It could be serious or something completely absurd or silly.
So, we decided to talk about getting another kitten, adding it to the two we had just rescued off the street.
Long ago, Jeanne fell in love with polydactyl cats. We’ve never had one. She hoped that we would at some point in time. These felines have extra toes and look quite unusual.
My response? I entertained the idea that the polydactyl would be pure black.
In order to stay awake, and continue the conversation, I Googled everything I could on black cats.
Yes, there were things that I already knew – the superstition that they were a sign of bad luck, and they are a prominent image on Halloween (being a sidekick of witches).
I also learned some disturbing facts. In the United States, animal shelters are filled with black cats. They can be most difficult to find homes for. Most shelters have a policy not to allow them to be adopted around Halloween because of possible mistreatment of the animal. Black cats suffer from disfavor and abuse from humans simply because of superstitions.
Then I discovered some surprising positive facts. Among them was that a black cat represents good luck in places like the United Kingdom and Japan.
Still trying to keep our eyes open, Jeanne and I searched for names for our hypothetical pure black polydactyl kitten. I looked at Biblical Hebrew names and stumbled upon Laila (spelled several ways). One meaning for the name is “dark beauty.” It is a common name given to girls born at night.
In some Jewish circles, Laila is “an angel of the dark” that was a protector of Abraham, which also serves as a person’s guardian angel from conception process through death, and is in direct opposition to a demon of misfortune named Lilith. (If you don’t believe me, feel free to Google this stuff).
In Nordic countries, Laila is interchangeable with Helga. Both names mean “holy.”
Quite surprisingly, there are exceptional and wonderful things that can come from “darkness.”
As the night wore on, I Googled “polydactyl cat,” and after an exhaustive search, I actually did find a pure black polydactyl kitten named “Pekaf.” She was listed as being at an animal rescue shelter in Butte, Montana.
What was once just a concept made a turn toward reality. I told Jeanne that I didn’t care about the number of miles involved. If this kitten was still available, I would most gladly go and pick her up and bring her home, and we could rename her Laila.
One night at the hospital, Benjamin’s cough began to subside and he slept for several hours. It was a positive turning point made while stars shone in the darkness.
Perhaps there is an angel named Laila – and soon, just maybe, a pure black polydactyl kitten come from afar.
Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for more than 30 years.