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Dawn's Notes

The Night of the Wooly Booger - October 2020
by Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW

My "wooly-booger" experience happened in the springtime in 2007.  My husband Ralph had died the previous year, so life had been a bit tough. Prior to my husband's death, it was he who I would call if there was a crisis, he who would pray with me. After his death, even though things had not been easy, there had not been a major crisis in my life until the "Night of the Wooly Booger."  Here's the story.

After work one evening, rather than go home to an empty house, I drove to a town about 25 miles away.  There I ate a quick meal, then went to Wal-Mart. It was just easier to push a basket around the store than go home alone. I had not been there long when my son-in-law Bryan called to let me know that my daughter Misty was in the hospital in Manhattan and was in excruciating pain.  He said the doctor was not sure what was going on.  I told Bryan I would be on my way, and I hurriedly exited the store, jumped into my car, and was soon headed toward home. Thinking I might need to stay all night at the hospital, I stopped by the house which was one mile off the highway to pick up a change of clothes and some cosmetics.  When I drove in the driveway, I didn't bother to turn off the car engine and did not shut the door on the driver's side. I quickly gathered a few things, jumped back in the car, and started driving toward Manhattan.  Shortly after leaving home, I called my dear friend Joan and told her Misty was in the hospital.  I told her that normally Ralph would have been the one to pray for Misty, but, as she knew, he was gone.  I tearfully asked Joan to say a prayer for Misty, and she did.

It was a jet-black night.  As I drove east, my mind was still spinning, but I felt reassured by the prayer of my friend.  When I was a few miles further down the road, I sensed that I was not alone in the car—something was silently moving in the passenger seat!  Then I felt something very big, very heavy, warm and wooly move over into my lap.  The wooly thing just plopped there! I could feel the hair on my head stand straight up!  A shiver went up my spine, and goose bumps popped up on my arms!  It was too dark to see what my traveling companion was! 

But I did know for sure that I was terrified, and "the thing" had to go!  So I started rolling down my car window while I carefully but firmly applied the brakes.  I also put on the blinker to signal my intention of pulling the car to the side of the road.   I did not want to wreck, but I could not get the car stopped fast enough!  And the "wooly booger" still sat firmly planted in my lap, heavy, furry, and warm. It was sooooo heavy, I actually thought it might be a raccoon.  I said aloud to "the thing," "You've got to go!"  When the car was almost stopped, "the thing" spoke up with a timid "Mee-ow!"  You guessed it—it was a cat!  When the car came to a halt, I opened my door, and "the wooly booger" bolted out of the car like a streak, quickly disappearing into the pitch-black night!   

Then I called my friend Joan again.  She must have thought I had gone bonkers!  The first time I had called her, I had been crying, but this time I was laughing so hard I could hardly tell her the story of "the wooly booger."  By then, it had occurred to me that "the wooly booger" was probably the neighbor's cat which regularly made visits to my house. In retrospect, the whole incident made sense.  The cat probably saw my car door open when I ran into the house.  It was then the cat had crawled into the car.  In the dark, I did not see the cat in the car with me.   Perhaps the cat was as scared as I had been as we traveled down the road together.  A few days later, I spotted the neighbor's cat in our yard again.  The cat had walked a few miles to get back home!

What lessons did I learn from my "wooly-booger" experience?  Here are a few:

  • I learned the importance of having a wonderful friend in a crisis.  (My daughter had gall bladder surgery and was fine—my friend helped at just the right time.)
  • I learned that some of those "things that go bump in the dark" are not always monsters as we might think. (They might be something as harmless as the neighbor's cat.)
  • I learned that "laughter is the best medicine" in a crisis.  (Laughter can make you forget your tension—make you laugh until you cry, replacing tears of sadness!)
  • I learned that I had made it through a frightening experience even though my husband was not there with me.  (I was
    thankful for Joan.)
  • But most of all, I learned that God must have a sense of humor.  When I had my encounter with "the wooly booger," I can imagine God looking down at me and that cat riding down the road together in the dark, just knowing what was about to happen.  (I think God
    must have had a chuckle too!)

If you have ever had a scary, traumatic moment, I hope your outcome was as harmless as a friendly kitty with a timid “mee-ow”—that your “wooly-booger” experience has been a reassurance that everything will be okay.

Call about the next "Living Life after Loss" Group at:
Meadowlark Hospice
709 Liberty, Clay Center, Kansas
(785) 632-2225
Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW, Group Facilitator