Making Lemonade Out of Love
by Lori Heine

There is an old saying that “When life gives us lemons, we can always make lemonade.”  I have learned the truth of this saying many times in my life.  Sometimes in quite wonderful and unexpected ways.

Buster and Punkin, brothers and litter-mates, were two of my closest companions for nearly two decades.  In the Gospels, Jesus talks about the importance of good soil.  These two cat “children” enriched my spiritual soil.  Some people claim that animals can’t love.  They didn’t know Buster and Punkin.

They were very close in life, living together ever since they were in the womb.  Every time I moved to a new home, they moved with me.  They outlasted two dogs and half a dozen other cats.  Through good times and bad, for nearly two decades they were more constant in their devotion than most of the human beings I have ever known.

This is often the case for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.  We may go through a time – perhaps even a lifetime – of estrangement from our families.  Our pets, like our human friends, provide us with the love often otherwise denied us.  Weaving together a unique tapestry of partner, accepting family, friends and pets, we can form families that prove more loving and enduring.

Buster passed away of old age, finally, at eighteen.  The last night of his life, as if sensing he was near the end, he fell asleep on my lap with Punkin alongside him.  Usually they went to their own little bed, but that night, they seemed to want to stay there with me.  Because Buster was ill, I simply let them, spending the night in my recliner.  We were, indeed, a family – in good times and in bad.

When my father died, I planted a lemon tree in the empty space in the front yard.  After his death, I buried Buster under that little tree.  Though he’d still been considerably healthier, Punkin pined away for his brother so intensely that he stopped eating, and I couldn’t coax him to take a morsel.  His decline came so quickly that he died only twelve days later.

I buried Punkin right beside Buster.  I thought it was fitting that as they’d been so close in life, they should stay close in death.  Until that time, that young tree had produced only two or three lemons every year.  Every year since, I’ve had an explosion of robust lemons.  Would the decomposing bodies of two cats be expected to make that big of a difference? Or has God been trying to tell me something more?

Jesus welcomed family wherever He found it.  All who loved and followed Him, He welcomed as brother, sister, mother and father to Him.  My lemon tree, I intended as a posthumous gift to my dad, from whom I’d been estranged, but with whom I reconciled in his final illness.  I never gave up on Jesus, and He never gave up on me.  During that painful period when I was alienated from my family, God provided a consolation in my friends, both human and non-human. 

Reconciliation, new love, fresh opportunities for friendship, are all possible if we will but believe.  God is faithful, even when people aren’t – and so are our pets.  Again this winter, as I harvest another abundant crop of lemons from my tree, I celebrate this tangible (and tasty) reminder that in my life, I have never really been alone.  And, putting those lemons to good use, I make lemonade out of love.


© 2014 Lori Heine

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