Exegesis of goodbye

Exegesis of goodbye

12551853654_edcf3ce06a_kThe equation always holds, but that never makes it feel right:

The longer you’ve loved someone, the larger “goodbye” looms.21301635073_5e6a4621fa_z

I suppose we had no business expecting another eight years from Skittles.

“Eight is enough,” pragmatic minds might say (though I’ve yet to meet them, and have no desire to do so). “Eight is especially enough when eight brings a cat to age nineteen. Nineteen! How could you ask for more?”

Easily, in fact.

When she crossed the Jordan last night, Skittles was Tabby’s Place’s oldest cat. Not only nineteen, she looked and felt every inch of her nineteen years. Both eyes had ruptured, and were now covered in clouds; her once-gleaming fur was a thin tangle; bones leapt out anywhere you reached to pet her.

Still, though, Skittles loved when you pet her. She was utterly full of grace, full of peace, even to the end.

You could say she was utterly, always, herself.

19259471270_75c7ca5d8e_zSkittles first came to us in the waning Bush years, before Webster or Hurricane Sandy or Taco Bell breakfast or even Mumford and Sons. She was “only” eight then, but as soon as she arrived, she attempted to leave us.

The underweight, weak and trembling cat had barely hit our Quarantine wing when it was off to Dr. Fantastic, off to a diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)…and off to the races of a life lived out at Tabby’s Place.

Graceful life. Peaceful life. Utterly Skittles’ own life.

In the early years, I confess we worked too hard trying to read our ideas of personality into Skittles. She was so quiet, so unassuming, so relentlessly content, that we each strung together our own stories about her. She must have been neglected! said some. Her person must have passed away! said others. She has no personality at all! sighed a few.

We came up with our own stories about Skittles before she was ready to tell her own.9194247105_3e50e07d08_z

In theological terms, this is called eisegesis. If you approach a sacred text with your own preconceptions, hell-bent on finding them, you probably will — but not without doing violence to what the scripture’s really trying to say. Eisegesis is comforting, reassuring, patting us on slouched backs and telling us that everything we already thought is exactly true to reality.

Much braver, much truer, much holier is the real work of exegesis.

Exegesis means coming to scripture stripped of expectations.* You don’t so much read it as you let it read you, reconfigure your assumptions, unsettle and resettle you in ways grander and scarier than you could imagine. You’re not cherry-picking for things you want to prove; you’re presenting yourself as an invited guest at a strange and wonderful feast.

If you do this, you will be changed.

A similar thing happens in those luminous moments when we’re able to let another soul be that soul. To hold a particular creature in all her particularity, to take her as she is in all her wildness and calm, is a fierce and holy act of love. It took us a few years to fully do this with Skittles. Maybe we never fully did — but we learned to try, and I think she honored our efforts.

8949138740_a2a6f4b936_zWhen Skittles moved into the lounge, her enormous, bottle-green eyes seemed to open a little wider. There was sunshine here, and an unsavory character named Mittens, and humans eating lunches and having conversations and sometimes even laughing or crying.

This was the soil in which Skittles was prepared to bloom, right on time.

As her eyes opened, she opened ours to her real story. She wasn’t sad, or dim, or personality-deprived. She was simply quiet. She was simply that gentle. We may not have been used to it, but she’d school us: she was that rare creature perfectly content to live so lightly on the earth that only the patient could trace her footsteps. Hers was a peace deeper than we knew — but she’d teach us, if we’d listen.

If you sat for fifteen minutes, Skittles would sidle up beside you, on a chair or on the table. Stretch it to thirty, and you’d feel the gentlest cotton-ball tap on your arm. Excuse me. Pardonnez moi. Your attention is requested. Your affection is requested.

When death is swallowed up in life, these eyes will open, bright green, and Skittles will know even as she is known.
When death is swallowed up in life, these eyes will open, bright green, and Skittles will know even as she is known.

I am here. I am real. My eyes are open. See me. Please?

Skittles, I hope and pray we truly saw the real you, the true you, and loved you to your depths. We tried our best, foolish humans though we are. We adored you. You opened our eyes, over and over again, gracefully, peacefully, utterly Skittlesly.

The next time Skittles opens her eyes, the clouds will have parted, and there she’ll be — all glorious and bottle-green-gazed, healthy and whole and utterly herself at a level we can’t yet imagine.

“Goodbye” is a gash that screams today. But “goodbye” doesn’t have the last word. Until we meet again, Skittles, thank you. Nous t’aimons beaucoup.

PS: Is it any coincidence that Skittles and David Bowie left this earth on the same day? Of course not. One was quiet; one was not; both were otherworldly-stardust-magic.

*And, no, none of us can do this perfectly. But, praise God, there’s grace for our stubborn, eisegeting brains.


3 thoughts on “Exegesis of goodbye

  1. Skittles was always my love in the lounge. Coming to me quietly for some petting and when she could, she would jump on to the table to try to steal some morsel of food I was eating. She was always quietly, gently present, calm and graceful. As she grew frailer I knew her time with us was short. I am so sorry to hear this, tears are falling. Be blessed, Skittles I will miss you.

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