Annabelle was the name of our cat. My name is Caleb. Annabelle was a big Blue Persian. She was especially big in the winter, when her fur was as thick and bushy as the brushwood at Wildwood Basin. The letter carrier said she looked like a big frilly tumbleweed with eyes!
Annabelle was old when she died. I’m not sure how old, but she moved kind of slow, like my thoughts when I first wake up in the morning.
We had another cat before Annabelle, but it got sick and died. The vet felt bad that he couldn’t save it, so he asked my mom and dad and my big sister, Jessica, if they wanted another cat, one that had been hanging around the clinic. Annabelle. She came to our home about the same time I did from the hospital after I was born.
I guess Annabelle and I sort of grew up together. I was eleven years old when she died, just a few months ago. Dad didn’t see her one day when he was backing out of the driveway in our van. And I guess Annabelle didn’t see Dad. Not in time, anyway. Dad felt so bad. It was the first time I’d seen him cry since he bore his testimony last year at church and told about how we joined the Church.
I think we were all thinking about that this morning when we buried Annabelle under the plum tree in our backyard. Mom had wrapped Annabelle in some pretty green material, and we put her in the hole Dad had dug in the soft earth. Then we all sat quietly in a circle around the little open grave and thought about our cat. Dad called it paying our last respects.
I thought about the summer we took Annabelle on vacation with us because we couldn’t find anyone to take care of her. It was the time we went to California to visit my Aunt Lee and Uncle Virgil. We drove through Utah on the way. It was night when we went through Salt Lake City, so we got a motel room to stay in. Mom and Jessica stayed there while Dad and I went to get us all something to eat. The man at the motel said we could let Annabelle stay in our room with us, but I wanted to take her with us in the car. She loved seeing the city lights, and I had fun watching her eyes get big and round when she got excited.
It was hot that night, so we rolled our car windows partway down. We were looking at all the lit-up places and stuff, when Dad had to jam on his brakes because the car right in front of us had stopped suddenly. Our car kind of jumped, and it scared Annabelle so much that she leaped out the window. We could see her run across the sidewalk and through the entrance to Temple Square. Dad pulled over near the curb so that I could get out and run after her. He said he’d hurry to find a parking place, then come help me find her.
The temple grounds were really pretty. Even the shadows were pretty because they were stuffed with flowers. I had to keep thinking about finding Annabelle, because my eyes kept wanting to look at other things, like the temple walls, which seemed as tall as the night. Then I glimpsed something that I just couldn’t keep from staring at. It was a big statue of the Savior, all lighted up in the night like a happy end to a sad story. I could see it through a huge window in the Visitors’ Center. I knew a little about Jesus from the Bible stories Mom and Dad read me. And there was something about that statue that made me want to know more. A feeling. A feeling about the whole place that felt as warm as the night.
I looked up through the trees at the statue as I walked closer and closer, and when I got as close as I could get, I heard a cat meow. I looked down. Annabelle was sitting right by my feet. Then Dad appeared, out of breath from running. “All’s well that ends well, huh, Caleb?” he said. I guess I didn’t say anything, because he knelt down in front of me and asked, “Is everything all right?” When I pointed up at the big statue, he gazed at it for a long time. “It’s … beautiful … , isn’t it, son?” he said in a way I hadn’t heard since the day he told me how much he loves Mom.
“Can we come back tomorrow?” I asked.
“I don’t know, Caleb. Aunt Lee is expecting us to—”
“I like the feeling here, Dad. I’d like Mom and Jessica to feel it too. Maybe we could look around in some of these buildings. And maybe we could look at the statue close up. It’s like Annabelle ran in here so that we’d come in here and … , well, …”
Dad petted Annabelle, whose eyes were big and bright in the temple ground light. Then he smiled. “I guess we are on vacation, aren’t we?”
The next morning we left Annabelle in our motel room and went to visit Temple Square. We stayed almost the whole day. Mom and Dad asked a lot of questions and told a man in the Visitors’ Center that they’d like to know more. Then, a little while after our vacation was over, two missionaries came to our home in Springfield. And a little while after that, we were all baptized into the Church.
Sunlight shined into Annabelle’s little grave through the limbs of the plumb tree. Mom said it was as though Heavenly Father was filling it with light to remind us that He is with us in our saddest moments—maybe especially then.
Dad said that we’d always be indebted to Annabelle for directing us in our own, unknowing way to the gospel of Jesus Christ and that just as that hole was filled with light, so our hearts will be, too, as we try in our own way each day to share His living truths with others.
We put some daisies from Mom’s flower garden on Annabelle’s grave, and I made a little picket fence around it out of sticks.
I know we will have other pets. Maybe a dog. Maybe another cat. Or maybe something else. But I’ll probably remember Annabelle the best—and that night on Temple Square.