Two days hence, the world will celebrate Easter (as well as the birthday of Tabby’s Place’s venerable veterinarian, Dr. C).
It’s always been my favorite holiday, and not primarily because I am an unrepentant fan of the entire oeuvre of Peeps products.
But if we’re going to celebrate properly, we’re going to need the help of some scary angels.
Any time we find ourselves standing stock still before the mystery of mercy, there are angels involved. Sometimes they wear funny clothes and do goofy voices like a fun uncle. Always, if they are truly angels, they are scary. I have recently encountered no fewer than three.
Out driving last week, I found myself in front of a man who looked exactly like Thomas Merton and was laughing hysterically. For a moment, I imagined the veil had gone all transparent, and I was witnessing a friend at bliss. (Then I realized this man was in a Mazda, and we all know Merton would have driven a Prius.) But he laughed so freely, the halo over his hairless head nearly made me drive off the road, and my heart sang.
A few days later, I witnessed a woman in her 80s lumbering into the hair salon. Her dandelion of hair was no fewer than four colors, and her previous visit had been many more than 40 days and 40 nights ago, a fact she gamely acknowledged: “Look at me! I’m a fuzzy mess! But it doesn’t matter, because I just broke up with Brad Pitt. Couldn’t take him anymore.” She was beatific, the octogenarian incarnation of loud, public permission to be wild and weird and laughing and lively.
And then there’s the angel whose devilry dogs us on a weekly basis.
One Bellamy Rosenberg.
The unrepentant urinator of the Lobby, pulsar-eyed chaser of gentler cats and leggy mastermind of probable international criminality (Operation: Cache Global Supply of Gelatinous Poultry Product), Bellamy could be slapped with the sticker “Very Bad Boy.”
He pouts. He prances. He pummels the likes of Rose and Pepita. He pees in locations so creative, Picasso in heaven is stroking his chin, slack-jawed and nudging Thomas Merton: “Do you see this guy?”
He absolutely, unrepentantly, laughingly loves his life.
And life is helplessly, whole-souledly smitten with him.
Bellamy has bad days, as do Not-Merton and She Who Dumped Brad Pitt and you and I. More precisely, he has bad fifteen-minute increments (being crated post-Urination Convocation, briefly pondering hypothetical shortage of squeezable aqueous turkey).
But he knows — and not just because we hold him and hallow him and enhalo him in affection, no matter what he does — that he is held, and happiness is his to keep, and he cannot be unloved.
He cannot. Be. Unloved.
No matter what he does, there’s forgiveness.
No matter where he goes, he will be home.
No matter how terrifyingly blank tomorrow’s square on the calendar may be, inexorable and inevitable and incoming with all manner of unimaginables, it’s already full of new mercies.
And they’re written in meticulous, tiny print, with a really good gel pen, so as to cram in as many as possible.
Bellamy knows all of this. He stakes his outrageous, maddening, miscreant life on it, because he keeps company with saints and angels and creatures who live in the certainty of compassion.
He is unafraid.
And that just might be what makes Bellamy, like every angel, pretty scary to earthfoots like you and me.
We think of angels as pretty ladies, perhaps dusted with pastel glitter, retailing for $24.99 at Hallmark. But Bible-type angels are, and here I employ my seminary education, what professional theologians deem “totally friggin’ terrifying.” I mean, people “fall down as though dead” so often in the presence of these beings, I think every seraph is outfitted with a Yeti tumbler of smelling salts.
When you read about them, you can tell that the Bible writers ran out of language, gasping after words like butterflies. The angels are “covered in eyes.” They have six wings, or more. They have wheels that turn in all directions. Their voices are many thunders.
They are most decidedly not afraid.
And the first thing they tell the poor collapsed creatures they visit is precisely this: Be not afraid.
Life is terrifying. We can be rejected or railroaded or repudiated at any time. Earth-love is inherently uncertain.
Death is terrifying. Even the ones who never wrong us may leave us. Even our best efforts cannot keep everyone we love alive. Even the grief we think has healed may hobble us and gobble us and leave us scared we will never actually stop shaking. And we might not.
But terrifying wonders, bald men who laugh hysterically on the highway and old women who laugh hysterically at themselves and Very Bad Cats who vibrate their irrevocable belovedness in our direction…well, they are the angels of Easter and beyond.
When you realize you cannot compromise your status as Cherished, you can play and sigh and grow and know that your own goodness is never what this was all about, anyway.
When you know you can’t be lost at last, you can throw darts at death.
When you see the lengths to which Love has gone to grab you like a cat by the scruff, and trot you into a forever home you cannot lose, you can afford to love other ragamuffins a little too bravely, come what may.
So let’s let the angels scare us.
Let’s gallop through the Lobby.
Let’s get to work convincing our neighbors that they, too, are loved enough to laugh and stretch and sing and live.
When life is everlasting, and scary sturdy saving love has got us for good, we’ve got plenty of time to get it right.
Happy Easter, kittens.