Big things do come in small packages

Published 12:01 am Friday, December 21, 2007

I am convinced the biggest lessons in life come in the smallest packages.

In a world filled with high stress and big decisions, it is hard sometimes to acknowledge the small things that keep life together.

Such is the case with a small black and white kitten named Tuxedo.

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It was not the name I wanted to give the little fur ball.

A friend of mine recommended we call the kitten Draino, which seemed fitting to me since we thought the kitten was a goner after being swept away by an early summer rain six months ago.

Luckily for him and for us he emerged from the storm drain outside my wife’s office soaking wet but still alive.

If you have ever given a cat a bath, you know that a soaking wet feline is one of the world’s most pitiful sights.

So it was no wonder that my wife, Amelia, put into action a full-fledged pet rescue.

No bigger than my fist, the two-month old kitten was pulled from the drain and brought into our lives.

When Amelia and a couple others from her office decided that Tuxedo would become the office cat, I just rolled my eyes.

Ever since I discovered that the classic animal book “All Things Bright and Beautiful” was one of my wife’s all-time favorite stories, I knew that she was a pet lover — one of those who would never abandon an animal in need.

While I would never leave a pet abandoned on the street, I am not the type to feel compelled to welcome into my house every animal that comes to my doorstep.

And since it really wasn’t my doorstep, I really had little say as to whether or not Tuxedo stayed.

So he stayed.

For six-months the black and white cat greeted me at the door whenever I paid my wife a visit.

A ball of energy, the cat would bound down the long office hallway, his back feet quickly catching up with the front.

He looked a little like an animated cartoon version of a cat — a little ungainly, slightly elastic in his motion.

Just watching the cat follow me around was enough to bring a smile to a stressful day.

And if I happened to stay long enough for a visit, I knew that I would have a constant companion by side or in my lap.

Many days I would walk in like a grouch and walk out with a smile on my face.

In time, this little cat became the glue that helped keep all the stress and big events of my daily routine together.

But like most small things in life, I paid little attention to how important this little creature was.

That was until Tuesday, when I made a phone call to the office. It didn’t take long to realize that something was wrong.

“Tuxedo didn’t make it,” I heard on the other end of the line. And then there was silence.

We didn’t know Tuxedo had a heart condition. According to the veterinarian, half of the kitten’s heart did not form correctly.

We took him in to be neutered. He never awakened from the anesthesia.

He may have lived a little longer. We don’t know.

But in his eight short months of life he brought joy to my life and those around him.

Since Tuesday I have been reminded numerous times of one of my favorite Christmas stories, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” And I while I have always enjoyed watching the classic show each year on television, this year the tale seems more applicable than ever.

Like Dr. Suess’ tale of the stingy Grinch whose heart grew ten times one Christmas day because of the tiny Whos in Whooville, I feel a little like this innocent cat has helped me grow too.

This tiny kitten with a tiny broken heart helped fill this big heart with joy.

And for that I will be forever grateful.

Ben Hillyer is web editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at