It wasn't until Liz snuggled on the couch with the crying little kitten that she felt a gentle peace begin to infuse her heart, she said. Nestled under her chin, the gray ball of fluff had quieted, purring softly, as Liz pondered a name for their newly adopted pet.
"Finding Neverland" was playing on TV -- not a Christmastime movie -- and the little cat slept while both Liz and Joe were lost in their private thoughts.
But suddenly at the sound of one character's voice, the kitten roused with a huge meow.
"Right when Gabriel spoke in the film, he woke up and cried loudly, like that's my name," said Liz about the well-remembered moment. "So, right then we named him Gabriel."
In the days that followed, there was no doubt in Liz's mind that Gabriel -- sometimes called her "angel Gabriel" -- had arrived when she so needed comfort in the midst of great sadness. The lingering grief from losing a child, the death of her longtime pet, all weighed heavily on her spirit -- until Gabriel.
"I don't know how to say this," Liz said, her voice betraying concern about how her next statement would be perceived. "But I feel like my son, Christopher, who passed away, sent this cat to help me heal."
Similar to the biblical angel Gabriel, who brought messages from heaven, this innocent cat felt to Liz like a messenger bringing healing and happiness to their home that bleak winter. However, this family wouldn't be Gabriel the cat's only mission.
Three years later, Gabriel and the Fisher family were living in the Tri-Cities, delighted to be back in the Northwest. Their summer vacation plans in late June included a stay at their lake home in Florence, Ore. Joe and Gabriel would travel early in the week and Liz would join them on the weekend.
But in the first days after Joe's arrival with the cat, Liz received a distressing telephone call from her husband. Gabriel had gone missing at the lake.
"I've never had a connection with a cat like I have had with Gabriel," Liz said with emotion as she thought back to the loss and how she felt. "He disappeared in Florence and we searched my entire vacation. I couldn't give up hope."