“Not compatible with life.”
I have been thinking about this phrase a great deal lately.
“Not compatible with life.”
We’ve heard it often enough at Tabby’s Place that we wave it like a sparkler.
The heart exposed on Beckett‘s ECG is “not compatible with life.” Prescott arrived with injuries “not compatible with life.” Gator faced a disease notoriously “not compatible with life.” Every orphan lives within hours of “not compatible with life.”
These are high-voltage words.
Tabby’s Place touches the fence, splits the atom, and finds bright eyes staring back.
These are lives who shredded the script, then used it for kitty litter. These are fireflies who broke the jar and flew, even if life broke their jaw, even if love broke speed limits rushing them to the emergency vet.
These are the stories we love to tell, although truth holds our tongues. Did the Linda Fund save Prescott? Well, of course; without your donations, there would have been no breathless flight to the emergency vet, no intensive care, no medical magnificence.
Sometime in 2022, you squinted at those stupidly small numbers on your credit card and typed them into our website. You pulled out your checkbook and your ballpoint and crossed out a tragedy by signing your name.
You sacrificed in secret. You gave more than anyone realizes, choosing generic cereal and holey socks so you could choose love.
You chose cats whose faces you had never seen. You went on a blind date with friends of the future, confident your heart would be compatible with theirs.
You chose Prescott.
I’m the lucky one who glimpses your rebel grace. You send in checks with Rowlf from the Muppet Show. You send in irrefutable proof of human goodness. You write letters that should be read aloud at the UN General Assembly, just to remind the world that love is alive and well in a world “not compatible with life.”
You save life. You give life. You are the saints and sages who see every cat as compatible with life.
Your dollars and dreams howl at the moon, defiant against death.
Prescott lives. Beckett lives. The kittens live.
But sometimes the date ends without a kiss.
Mortimer‘s kidneys cackle at science until they cannot. Pac-Man gobbles grace but not survival. Boom demands years beyond all reasonable expectation, until time takes him in its arms and carries him beyond our sight.
If generosity and bravado could save them, no cat would ever die. But we live inside a story too big for a single ending.
“Not compatible with life.” Sometimes the dismal words have their day. The vet team apologizes: “I’m sorry, guys. We did everything we could.”
Staff and volunteers form a braided circle around the life we love, salty tears and stories flooding the room. We hold onto each other’s shoulders as though we may blow away in the storm. We kiss the fading face for those who are near but not present, you with your Rowlf checks, and you with your prayers for every diabetic cat, and you with your trembling ballpoint.
“Not compatible with life.” If you’ve been around “rescue people” for any length of time, you know that we all feel this. We have been scalded by humans, that astringent species. We have been wrenched by plot twists. We have fallen in and out of love with this earth. We have wondered if we are fundamentally incompatible with life.
These are high-stakes tears.
And then the cats have come, broken and unbreakable. The old and the wounded and the dainty and the flatulent have loved us like we are their vocation. The dying have insisted that we live. The sickly have demanded our strength. The left-behind have defied loneliness and declared us compatible with each other.
As Prescott lay dying on the night of her arrival, her peridot eyes blazed wild. It took all her strength to make “muffins” in the air, but each motion was a punch in death’s belly. Few believed she would last the night, but she would not leave without insisting she was compatible with love…and so were we.
Prescott lived. Others do not. We do everything we can. We don’t ultimately hold the pen.
But life is in love with each cat.
You, darling donors, are the fire-eyed matchmakers.
None of us is entirely compatible with life. But when we hold onto each other, weak and tearful, we are stronger than death.
“Not compatible with life.” We will hear it a hundred more times. We will tell the stories of the cats who “should not” be here, whose bodies have no right to all this thriving.
We will look to you with hopeful eyes.
We will trust you to be brave with Prescott and Beckett and the kittens and the staff who tremble like kittens when no one is looking.
We will believe that every cat we save is the love of love’s life.
Pictured top to bottom: Queen Prescott x3, Gator, Beckett, Prescott, Boom, Beckett, Prescott Power x2