Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: February 1, 2023 by Crystal Uys


If you’ve read The Conscious Cat for a little while, you may remember reading about Steeler. Steeler was a tortie who belonged to my friend Bernie. Steeler had come into Bernie’s life during a time when she really needed a little angel. Her husband had become severely debilitated by Alzheimer’s, and after Bernie took in the the little stray cat sporting the colors of her favorite football team, she quickly won both of their hearts. Miraculously, Bernie’s husband, who didn’t respond to anyone else at that stage, not even to Bernie, still responded to Steeler’s presence.

After her husband was hospitalized, Steeler became a great comfort to Bernie. Sadly, fate wasn’t done providing challenges for Bernie. Bernie’s husband succumbed to his illness last December. A few weeks later, Bernie’s son Eric lost his battle with lung cancer. And four months after that, Steeler passed away after dealing with multiple health issues.

It takes a strong person to go on after so much loss in such a short period of time. Bernie found comfort with family and friends, and that helped. But grief is a lonely business. When you’re grieving this much loss, you become a little fragile on the inside, no matter how strong you look on the outside. And coming home to an empty house, day after day, wasn’t helping.

Last week, she got a call from the nursing home her mother resides in: her mother had had a series of small strokes. The same day, her stepfather was taken to the hospital with heart complications . Bernie knew that she would be facing more loss in the near future, and she wasn’t sure she could bear it. On the way home from the hospital, she stopped at the cemetery, sat by Eric’s grave, and wept. For two solid hours, she cried. She cried for Eric, and she cried for Steeler. She kept asking questions that have no answers. She felt like she just couldn’t go on anymore. She begged for something, anything. “There has to be something more,” she said to me when she told me about that day. “I needed a sign that Eric and Steeler weren’t really gone.”

After she had cried herself out, she drove home, and went inside through the back door, as she usually does. Her son Wayne, who is currently staying with her while recovering from eye surgery, greeted her excitedly. “Mom, you’re not going to believe what’s on your porch!” He practically dragged her to the front porch of the house.

There, on the front porch, were two kittens: a tortoiseshell and a grey tabby. They looked to be about six weeks old. They were a little skittish, but Wayne managed to catch them.

Bernie named the grey tabby Liberty, and the tortie Justice. Eric worked for the US Department of Justice, and it seemed like a fitting tribute to him and Steeler.

You already know that Steeler was a tortie.

What you don’t know is that Eric had beautiful, thick, grey hair.

June 27 update:

A week after she found the kittens on her front porch, Bernie was able to trap the kitten’s mother. The gray cat had been coming to Bernie’s porch for quite some time, even while Steeler was still alive, and Bernie had been feeding her. The cat was shy, and Bernie never thought about bringing her into the house, especially not while Steeler was still with her. Steeler fell into the category of confirmed only cat.

But now, the mother cat has become part of Bernie’s family. Bernie named her Freedom.

The day Freedom came home, Bernie received a letter about her son’s burial site. It informed her that Eric’s headstone will be placed this week, in a portion of the cemetery called – Freedom Garden.

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68 Comments on Liberty and Justice: a tale of loss, faith, and kittens

  1. Bernie, words seldom fail me, but, as we say in England, “I am gobsmacked”, (speechless) what a beautiful tribute to your family! What a truly wonderful friend you have in Ingrid, my continued prayers are with you, long distance hugs and love from Texas!

  2. This is an open thank you to all who have read wished me the best in so many ways. It is not possible to reply to each of you individually, however, I have read each and every word written on this post.

    Ingrid, I can only say, Thank You, from the bottom of my heart.

    • Bernie, after reading this story written by Ingrid, I certainly can understand why the loss of Liberty is so painful. A more beautiful and touching story I have never read before. It would be a wonderful story for Chicken Soup for the Cat Lovers Soul. Love and prayers to you during this very sad time. You are in my thoughts and prayers. I am happy to call you my friend. <3

      • Mary, Ingrid, has been and continues to be a true friend and support to me. She has walked beside me through my journey of terrible tragedies and happiness. She continues to stay at my side.
        If this Tribute to Liberty, Justice and then Freedom was to be published in another forum, that would be for Ingrid King to do. This is her publication. She asked my permission to write my story and therefore to do anything with it is up to her. She may publish it anytime and anywhere she feels it to be appropriate.

        I treasure these Tributes to my little ones as she has written them. This loss of Liberty is more than just a loss to many, it is like stealing a piece of my very beloved son Eric, all over again. Thank you for your kind and generous words.

  3. What a story… My eyes welled up with tears while I was reading this. May God bless kindhearted people all over the world, and cats and kittens, for they are little angels indeed. Bernie, my prayers and thoughts are with you, you are a wonderful, strong person, and kind; and according to my personal belief, people eventually get back what they send out to this world. You got these amazing new furry friends to help you through the difficult times, and it is simply amazing.

    Ingrid, thanks so much for sharing this with us. God bless you all. Love to everybody.

    My furry threesome (Jean-Jacques, Kuzina and Maceo) is sending you all mrrows and soft paws.

    • Ronnie, thank you and you furry threesome (Jean-Jacques, Kuzina and Maceo) for all the mrrows and soft paws.

  4. Such a great story.
    What is so suprising is that as soon as Bernie took the mom cat in Sat night she named her Freedom (it goes for what Eric believed in and spent his whole life defending and also that she was free from worry about life in the wild). 3 days later Bernie received the letter on Tuesday about Eric headstone will be placed in a place called – Freedom Garden.

    Shows Steeler and Eric are still comunicating with her.

  5. Ingrid, what an amazing update – there are mysterious workings in the world, we just have to be open to them.

    Bernie – you are a strong, amazing person, Freedom will show her kittens how to be loved I am sure.

    • Isn’t it amazing, Rebecca? I agree, as long as we’re open to these little miracles, they do happen.

      • Rebecca, thank you so much for you words of kindness. I have accepted this little family of kittens, that are now mine, are a very special gift from my son Eric and Steeler.

        The grief was truly overwhelming me. There are some very wonderful people that held me up in many ways. These folks will always be a part of my love in my heart. Ingrid, Harry, Julie and their family, Glen, Sue, Betty, and of course Jay. Without their constant unwavering support these past 7 months, I don’t know if I could have come to the place I am in now. These people were there for me 24/7 and tho I didn’t want to burden them, they knew and were always standing at the ready. Eric and Steeler would have loved them all, as I do.

        I am blessed to be able to have seen what I have received. I now know sometimes answers are given in ways, that cannot be explained away.

    • Harry my group will get all the pats and kitty scratches, hugs and kisses I can give them. That is when they decide to let me. Right now Justice, the Tortie, is showing she is all Tortie, no kidding with this girl. Liberty is still hissing and snarling until picked up then he is all purrs. Just likes to make as if he is wearing his big boy pants. Now for Freedom, what a surprise to me. She is lying on the bed right now as I write this. She wants to be a bed buddy. She is a complete surprise in her wanting attention.

      I am happy to have this little awesome family.

  6. Thanks for the update, Ingrid! Those two kittens really do look like Brooke and Parker. I’m so glad that the kittens came, and I’m sure the reason they’re a little feral is because Steeler was not about to make it easy on Bernie – Steeler knows how Bernie loves a challenge 🙂

    • Harry, thank you for being there for me. Yes I do have a real challenge now. I will do my best to meet it. I know some very special people to call for HELP. 🙂

  7. WOW! There IS a Heaven AND it touches Earth for sure!!

    Bernie, you KNOW Steeler is purring and Eric, who is holding Steeler in his arms, is chuckling– they are saying “They found the GIFTS!! YAY!!”

    I know that Princess, very shortly after she left this world, sent me two cats — and although I could not afford to keep either one, they found GREAT homes — I made sure of it.

    There IS a Heaven on Earth, and the animals –who were NEVER kicked out of the Garden of Eden, BTW — are our Guardian Angels.

    Enjoy your new gifts Bernie– and KNOW that Steeler is watching over them like a good Mama!!!

  8. Ingrid, you did a wonderful job conveying this amazing story!
    I believe in miracles, angels, and the like and this is just more proof that God answers prayers in mysterious ways. This story would fit in, “Chicken Soup for the Animal Lovers Soul”!
    Bernie has been in my prayers & this just reaffirms the power of prayer.
    Oddly enough, my two cats resemble Justice and Liberty.
    Much love & THANK YOU so much for sharing this story (I’ve re-read it several times).

    Edie Kidie & Nona Balongna’s Mom, Emily

  9. animals, peeps…forever together…forever apart…our lives forever entertwined for good or bad…so happy this was for good…purrrrs

  10. That is such a great story. I am so glad those two kittens made it to her front porch. It is amazing how miracles do happen. I had something a little similar happen. I was all down in the dumps after 4 months of chemo and one evening just said to myself, I need a kitten. And the next morning, this little scruffy long haired matted tiny little kitten came flying into my yard. She is still here and her name is Mewmew.
    Thanks Ingrid for your kind comment on our blog today.

    • Sounds like Mewmew is your little angel, Marg. Another prayer answered. Thanks for sharing your story.

  11. What a wonderful story! It made me tear up. I wish nursing homes and assisted living centers would recognize the benefits of keep cats on the property and allowing seniors to keep their animals. Thanks for the story.

  12. Bawling as I read this. Absolutely amazing. Bernie is such a strong person too…cannot imagine having all of that happen to me within such a short period of time. Hugs and wet-nosed kitty kisses to Bernie. =^..^=

      • Step thank you for the hugs and wet-nosed kitty kisses. I don’t know if I am a strong woman or a woman who truly needed to know my loved ones truly did go to be with the angels. They sent me a very beautiful message.

  13. That is one of the dearest, sweetest stories I’ve ever read – it makes my heart happy. No doubt those kittens were the answer to Bernie’s prayer…..and I’m sure having those two little babies will help her get through any further sadness she may face. Cats have a way of doing that – coming into our lives just when we need them the most! Thanks for sharing that Ingrid……

    Pam (with Sam on my lap)

  14. BERNIE! I can’t believe it! This is truly a sign…I’m so happy for you. These kittens are going to get a great home. Have to tell you, the funniest thing – the tortie and grey kitten remind me of Brooke and her Buddy Parker, who died of FIP. God works in strange ways.

    • Isn’t that something, Rachel – now that I’m reading your comment, I’m remembering that photo you shared a while back of Brooke and Parker.

    • Rachel, I know you are happy for me. You are a wonderful young woman, whom I am proud to know. I will love those kittens and their mom with all I have.

  15. Beautiful story – to bear such loss in such a short time. Prayers go out to all. I am sure my co-worker will be wondering why I have tears in my eyes.

  16. WOW, I have tears running down my eyes as well. Bernie got the answer to her questions. Eric and Steeler are letting Bernie know that they are both watching over her and the love her. Everything happens for a reason and Liberty and Justice came into Bernies life when she needed them most!!

  17. What a wonderful story – I’m so happy Bernie received her two little angels sent by Eric and Steeler!

  18. Oh wow. What a good cry.

    My prayers go out to Bernie. I lost both my parents within two months two years ago. It does seem overwhelming and I still struggle.

    These two were brought to her for a divine reason.

    You stay strong Bernie and give your little love bundles much hugs from us.

    Ingrid, you did a beatiful job with that piece.

    Question, are they both female? another (maybe crazy question) but do you think they came from the same litter? I just wasn’t sure if tortie litters are always tortie colored.

    • Thanks, Diana. I don’t think Bernie is entirely sure yet whether they’re both female. It’s probably safe to assume that the tortie is. And they’re probably from the same litter. And no, tortie litters aren’t always tortie colored.

      • Diana, thank you for you prayers. I am so sorry to hear you lost your parents so close together. I know the heartbreak of losing loved ones very close together. Hugs and love to you.

  19. What a wonderful story, Ingrid! It gave me chills – lots of them – and tears, of course. I have no doubt that Eric and Steeler sent this precious pair to Bernie. I hope they do bring her comfort and joy.

    Lots of hugs and positive energy to Bernie and her two new little ones!

      • Amy thank you for the hugs and energy you sent to me and my little ones. As of this posting, you may not know it, but I caught the mom and named her Freedom. Ingrid did an update on Freedom and her story.

        I can’t thank Ingrid enough for being open to hearing and understanding what I had been through.

  20. OMG Ingrid, I have tears in my eyes… I’m sure that Bernie’s prayers were answered and that Eric and Steeler want their Mommy to be happy again!!!! This is why they sent her these two adorable little angels… Yes, I do think they are little angels come to help Bernie in this hard time of her life, they will give her the strength to go on and little by little they will help her smile again with their funny playing and chasing each other, and all the love they will bring into Bernie’s life!
    Thank you for sharing this sad-and-sweet story, Ingrid!
    I’m sending Bernie all my positive thoughts and love!

  21. Goodness me … I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes and goosebumps. What a beautiful sign that Eric and Steeler both heard Bernie’s prayers that day. I have read before that our passed feline friends send their replacements to us … I am sure that Steeler decided that Bernie needs a beautiful distraction and extra love at the moment. Stay strong Bernie … love and prayers are coming your way from Australia.

    • Margaret, thank you for your love and prayers fromAustralia. I will stay strong and will remember all the kind thoughts and prayers that have been sent my way. <3

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