He came to us after one hurricane.
He left us on the eve of another.
Like the wind we can’t see coming or going, Hobbes has flown from our grasp.Gobsmacked by grief again, the same old insufficient words come to me.
Yes, every loss is awful.
Yes, every loss is different.
Yes, some losses are somehow worse. (YES, this is so VERY MUCH one of those…)
Words. They may as well be vapor in the grieving hours.
At least, that’s true of my words. So between tears and sighs and dreams of a smiling marmalade cat no longer stretched across Jonathan’s desk, I reach for words older, truer, wiser than I am.
You’ve doubtless heard the Beatitudes. If not in church or threaded through some folk song or another, you’ve spotted them embroidered on a pillow, emblazoned on a banner, enfolded into our cultural memory, somewhere:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…
We think these are predictable, comforting words, and I suppose they are, at first blush. We’re all in favor of blessing the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart. Bless ’em all up, bless ’em good.
But what you may not have heard is that the original word for “blessed” is really more accurately translated as “happy.”
By using the churchy-sounding, empty-airy “blessed,” we lose the punch-in-the-gut, wind-in-your-sails shock of the original. Jesus wasn’t saying the meek and merciful and mourning are Good Churchy People.
He was saying they are happy.
And that’s where things may seem to go off the rails.
Before, during and after my seminary days, I’ve always choked out “happy are those who mourn.”
Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
OK. Being comforted is good. I get that. As Hobbes breathed his last, it helped — really helped — to have my weeping friends around me, hugs around each other’s shoulders and sobs mingling in broken harmony. I’ll take being comforted over not being comforted.
But never mourning in the first place, and never needing comforting, is better. Right?
How could it not be?
How could it not be better for Hobbes to still be here, as brightly alive as his fire-orange coat?
After all, if there was one thing Hobbes brought to every table, it was aliveness. If you only knew Hobbes after he cleared from Quarantine, this may be hard to believe, but the Hobbes we first met was lively with wild, dangerous, terrifying violence.
None less than Jonathan admitted to being afraid of Hobbes.
Dude would mess you up.
Turns out dude had dental disease up the ying-yang, and getting fed, medicated, and touched was a source of unending pain. The orange tom didn’t need an exorcism; he needed an extraction. Make that a mouthful of extractions.
Once toothless, Hobbes turned into total tenderness…and he never, ever, ever turned back.
Removing Hobbes’ teeth mysteriously also seems to have removed his bones. Once he was liberated from pain and launched into Jonathan’s office, Hobbes became the first-ever liquid cat. No matter where Jonathan sat, no matter how, Hobbes flowed over him like a combination scarf/water feature. If Jon moved, Hobbes oozed. They were as one unit.
Still, even as Hobbes had turned into a living, languid love-liquid, we never forgot the fights he’d won. This was the cat who’d come to us through Hurricane Sandy. This was the cat who’d survived almost-unbelievable ringworm, utterly-intolerable dental disease, diabetes and FIV and the death of his docile brother…
…this was a colossus among cats.
So I ask you: how could it be blessed — happy!! — that we should mourn?
My loud broken heart is inclined to squawk, keep your friggin’ comfort. I’ll take Door #1: never mourning in the first place. Ever. I’ll take Hobbes. Hobbes, come out from behind that door. Please, Hobberton.
Broken hearts are loud, but not necessarily right.
Is it possible that somehow our mourning will be gobbled by happiness?
Is it possible that there’s a comfort better than never having mourned at all?
It seems impossible, I admit it. My beady little earth-eyes can’t see a glimpse of a flicker of a hope of that.
But. I have it on good authority that what’s impossible with humans and cats is possible with God.
I have it on good authority that there’s a life after life that never ends.
I bet my life on believing that what’s coming will be worth all that’s come before.
Without the hurricane, we wouldn’t have had Hobbes.
Without the end of this life, there’s no beginning of the next.
Unless a seed falls in the ground and dies, it accomplishes nothing…but after death comes a life we can’t yet imagine.
Blessed are you as you mourn with us, weeping friends.
Blessed, are you, beloved Hobbes.
We will be comforted.