The Ultimate Cat Lady

I served my mission in Seoul, South Korea. In my second area I was serving in one of the areas in our mission that bordered the DMZ to the North. I served there from November until March during one of the coldest winters on record. So one morning in late January the local bishop called us. My companion, who is a native Korean, answered; the bishop was calling to ask a favor from us I found out later. One of the less active sisters in the ward had called him in the middle of the night sobbing over the phone about her cat that had died. She was in her 30’s, single, and she lived alone with her cats. The one that had died had been her favorite. Because she lived so far up north and the bishop didn’t have the time to visit her he called us to ask if we could give her a call and offer our help. He insisted that we do whatever she asked. So we called her and we offered our assistance not realizing the trouble we were getting ourselves in to. She needed someone to help her bury the cat. My companion agreed to help and the next day found us on a bus travelling an hour North into the North Korean Mountain range. (This is still in South Korea, its just that the mountain range protrudes south over the DMZ) We got to her apartment complex and she let us in (she had a lot of cats by the way) and she showed us her casket that she had gotten for the deceased feline. It was in a wooden box about 3 feet by 1.5 feet and was lying in a bed of rose pedals, pretty ribbons, and handwritten notes. She put the lid on, tied it shut with a pink ribbon, sung a hymn, said a prayer and we departed. We took a taxi further into the mountains to a traditional Korean graveyard. Korean cemeteries are different from the ones you are probably familiar with in that instead of tombstones they use mounds to mark each spot. So we arrived at this gravesite, keep in mind that this is winter in the mountains and there is a foot of snow on the ground, and she gives us the shovel that she had brought, and asks us to carry the casket as she begins the search for the right spot. We climb up a large hill weaving in and out of the grave mounds and finally stop in front of two very large mounds at the top of a hill. She informed us that this was her grandparents resting place and she wanted to bury the cat directly in front of them to the right a few feet. So we clear the ground of snow, and try to break the earth with our shovel. It didn’t work. The ground was frozen solid, so she says that she knows where to procure a pick axe and left us at the top of the hill while she spent the next thirty minutes finding and buying us a pick axe. Even with the pick axe the work was very slow, it was easily -10 degrees celsius that day and had been much colder throughout the preceding week. We told her many times how crazy this was and how it would be impossible to dig, to which she responded by grabbing the pick axe and trying to do it herself. We would have none of that and so we began the arduous task of chiseling a cat grave out of the frozen ground. We would take turns, after five minutes of wielding the axe we would switch. This was all accomplished in a suit and tie mind you. 6 hours later we finally were able to lower the cat into his grave. Now the whole time we were digging she was feeding us Korean snacks that she would periodically disappear to buy at the store or she would open up the casket and reposition the cat. We buried it and had another graveside service where we sang the hymn “Because I have been given much,” I shared a scripture, and we finished with a prayer. My companion and I were speechless, hungry, cold, and tired on our way home. I think we fell asleep at 9 when we walked back in to the apartment and didn’t wake up until 10 the next morning. I had never been so sore! and both our palms were severely bruised to the point that it was hard to turn doorknobs and open them. That Sunday the less active sister came to church however and was there each week until I left the area two months later. A year later I was transferred back into the same stake and guess who i saw at stake conference? Yep, she was there. That’s when she gave me a thank you note that said while we were on top of the mountain she couldn’t help but think that two angels had come to hep her in that time of need. One of the most miserable moments on my mission was also one of my most angelic. I’ll be forever grateful for the day I got to spend burying this dear sister’s cat. Elder Johnson Seoul South Korea 2010-2012

2016-06-27T16:41:54+00:00 June 21st, 2013|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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