How can you possibly write an obituary for a stranger?
Only when they’re a friend.
As I type these words, it feels like all the laughs have fallen off the track. The Middle East blazes with tears. Ukraine bleeds below the headlines. A man who brought joy has cupped his final coffee. Two cats sighed their last before they learned their names.
We are a league of unguarded hearts at Tabby’s Place, regularly mugged by our own mercy. We want to place warm hands on tear-stained cheeks across the sea. We want to thank Matthew Perry for his friendship. We want to stop the universe from expanding, just long enough to smuggle a few starry years into frail bodies.
We do not know the strangers under siege, but we know they are our family. They have our eyes. They have uncles and favorite colors and birthdays.
We did not know the gentle actor, but we knew he sweetened our tart years. His Chandler Bing was kind and clumsy and brave enough to love his friends.
We could not know Hattie and Aslan, not in the way we know Olive or Anka. We had days, not years. The ink on their files was still wet with new names when our chins dripped with tears. Time folded its arms.
But time folds in on itself at Tabby’s Place, a quantum origami of affection. Clocks hop the bullet train for a more logical station. Our arms, tattooed and bitten, become wings. Our strangers become friends.
Hattie became our Hattie the hour of her arrival. She was desperately thirsty, but there was laughter in her sea-glass eyes. Our cups overflowed. She drank kisses like champagne. She entrusted herself to embraces without insurance. She adored in the absence of evidence.
She was dying of kidney disease. She flooded four days with light. She learned about squeeze-treats and forehead kisses and the friendship that does not need time. She lay her silver body down. Hard years softened in the dew of our tears. Love was her final episode. She woke laughing in light, thirsty no more.
Aslan arrived already departing. His prognosis was black-and-white. More logical hearts than ours would turn the deadbolt, raise the drawbridge, spin the coffee-shop sign to “CLOSED.” Unguarded hearts are brash enough to love dying friends.
Tomorrow’s tracks went cold, but today he was warm in our arms. When you see your friend packing his suitcase, your love makes the most of the hours. Your kisses are espresso. We told the great lion he would never lose our loyalty.
Aslan was ready to rest. Aslan was on the move. He learned about neck-nuzzles and singing. He saw light in starry eyes glad to see him. He traveled the broken line from “stray” to “somebody.”
Tabby’s Place was a foretaste of the feast. He slipped from our arms into Narnia. I know — I am certain — he found Hattie at the lamppost. Friends wait for each other.
Friends don’t need to wait years to love each other. I know this, because we have just welcomed cats named Matthew and Perry, our newest friends. They are hale comedians, young and caffeinated. We will have time to get to know them. We already adore them.
They have fallen into the episode that never ends, the one where you get to keep everyone you have ever loved.
Laughter rises, then falls to the bottom of our sea. We cannot save the brokenhearted world. We will leave our hearts unsupervised among friends.
PS: I cannot express this often enough, but my friends — the humble kind, the two-legged kind, the Tabby’s Place staff kind — are the incarnation of friendship. They are the tireless ones, living on tears and caffeine. They are the selfless ones, holding Hattie and Aslan’s paws as they crossed the veil. They are the ones I want to be like most in this world. I am in awe of you. If I am ever 0.01% the kind of friends you are, I will be glad indeed.