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The Lion and Me

For Patrick.

One of my favorite kid’s books was a story called "Tim and the Lion." Little Tim was afraid of everything. He was afraid of the dark, he was afraid of dogs and of other people, he was afraid of the world. But one morning, he found a little lion sitting by his bedside and the lion said, "I have come to help you to overcome your fears. As long as I am in your pocket, nothing bad can happen to you."

And Tim put the lion in his pocket and his life changed. He faced his fears and while doing so, he made new friends who helped him to face the world. Whenever something was about to scare him, Tim said, "I am not afraid, because I have a lion in my pocket."

And then, one day, Tim faced his biggest fear - the school bully. After standing up to a boy a foot taller than he was, Tim grabbed in his pocket to thank his lion, but all he found was a letter.

"Dear Tim, you are now brave enough to face everything on your own.
I have to move on to help another little boy. Love, always, your lion."
Six years ago, I was like Tim – only forty years older than he was. I was alone and angry, afraid of the dark, afraid of other people, afraid of the world. Stuck in addiction and depression, I seriously thought about an easy way out of misery. But then, one day, there was a lion on my doorstep. Well, he was one of those feline descendents of lions. He looked as beaten up as I did, scarred and dirty, but I truly believe I heard him say, "I am as deep in the hole as you are, and but if you let me stay with you, maybe we find a way out of this together." From that day on, my house was alive again and my life had a purpose. I was able to face the world because I had a lion in my pocket. It was St. Patrick’s Day and so I named him Patrick and he seemed to like it.

It so happened that at the day I found Patrick, I also found a couple of new friends who helped me to deal with the one thing Patrick couldn’t help me with: my addiction. With new friends, a new lifestyle, and a lion in my pocket I was able to overcome things that had been beating me all my life. And so, every year on St. Patrick’s Day, I did not only celebrate my lion but also another year of sobriety – six years so far! (That was in 2008). And I truly believe it would not have happened without my lion. In those six years, life challenged me with a number of obstacles: a divorce, a layoff, two car wrecks, a serious debt consolidation, two surgeries and three root canals - but with the tools my new friends gave me everything was manageable - and with a lion in my pocket there was nothing to be afraid of.

Lately, my good friend wasn’t doing so well. Until a week ago I didn’t even know that cats can get cancer. But my lion, who was with me in every battle life had thrown at me, couldn’t win this one. And when we finally faced the inevitable, the best woman in the world told me that my lion now had to move on to help someone who needed him more than I did.

Yesterday, we buried Patrick and I told her the story of "Tim and the Lion." I truly believe that he left me because he knew I could finally handle life. And he stayed with me through pain and cancer until he was sure of it. I like to think my lion is out there today, helping some other little boy who wouldn’t make it through the dark without him.

Farwell Patrick, you will be missed!

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