As the song* has it, the body remembers what the mind forgets.
But the reverse is also true.
This is why your eyes still see, tail-chasing at the edge of your view, a cat you know died five years ago.
This is why your arm still reaches, heavy with sleep, for a furry ghost that hasn’t brushed by your bed in a decade.
Anneke’s body went through major changes, HGTV-worthy renovations, during her years at Tabby’s Place. Initially average-sized, she arrived after being found in agony at a garden center that strongly did not want her.
We never entirely unraveled the mystery of Anneke’s back pain — back torment would be more accurate. But we did find a veterinary surgeon who could help, and he nearly took her apart in order to put her life and her peace back together again.
With the worst of her ache eased, Anneke was gleefully free to taste full life. By “taste” I mean “tornado down in a Cookie Monster frenzy.” Over the course of what seemed to be just a few hours, Anneke gained what seemed to be just a few hundred pounds.
That’s the Anneke my arms remember best, the zeppelin-shaped bovine of a cat, happily, hungrily lumbering through Adoption Room 3 and then the Lobby. As you pet her, your hands would have to fan out around her impressive midsection. The ragged, sweet-eyed tabby would purr and “pet you back” with her head-bonks all the while.
Anneke was already “older” (scientific term) when she joined our herd, and she was never fully healthy or fully normal, so our eyes all got accustomed to seeing her in a permanent, stable state of sloppy sweetness. Her walk was crooked, her fur was seldom groomed, she had a certain “bag lady chic”…but her heart was pure, and so we were blessed.
So, of course, was every cat in the lobby with any inclination towards peace and love. Anneke was an equal opportunity love monster, cuddling creatures of all ages and species and sizes and shapes. Mimi and Lars and OJ and numberless minivans of Girl Scouts found true friendship in Anneke’s happy, hungry eyes.
Pancreatic problems came on quickly, and no one was ready for a Tabby’s Place without Anneke. Even though she’d grown gaunt, my forgetful eyes still saw the striped airship; even though her eyes were cloudy and tired, she still sought us out — all of us — under all circumstances.
When Anneke’s time came, time in the lobby stopped for cats and humans alike. Somehow, as we always do, we will find a way to live in this new hour and new dimension. Somehow, as we always do, we will make a place for another cat to be promoted to the lobby. Somehow, as it always does, hope will put down roots that Anneke will appear in reality before our eyes and souls again, on the other side of a great divide that only faith can call temporary.
In the meantime, though, I’m going to forgive my body for forgetting what my mind knows. My arms will still reach out to pet that football-figured angel, and as I draw them back to my heart, empty but honest, I’ll thank the One who loved Anneke best for the time we had her.
Until we meet again, blessed is the pure in heart. We love you, Anneke.
*Actually one of my favorite songs in the history of songcraft. The full lyric is, “The body remembers what the mind forgets; archives every heartache and cigarette. And these reset bones, they might not heal…but they might, yet.” I leave it with you in full below. Anneke, leave a light on for us.