It happened again.
It will keep happening.
It will happen until our hearts harden like granite, like gristle, like “good sense.”
Which is to say, it will keep happening.
Tabby’s Place is able to do many things for many cats. We are able to carry them in from the cold. (The cold has a thousand faces.) We are able to heal the hurts and lullaby the hullabaloos that have savaged their stories. (Hurts and hullabaloos come in countless colors.) We are able to treasure the trembling, lift the lowly, and lionize the least, the last, and the lost. (Lions and treasures lurk under every whisker.)
We are not able to save them all.
We are not able to save ourselves from loving them too much.
“Too much” is a 7,000-foot trap better known as Tabby’s Place. “Too much” is the love that leaps over prudence, jumps the hedge and jumpstarts the heart and jolts us from ecstasy to agony and back, over and over and over again.
And on Halloween Eve 2022, it happened again. We were not able to stop it.
Kane came along the usual way, kicked down the road like a rusted can of carrots. FIV+ but fear-negative, Kane came along tired and tattered enough to be tender and truthful. With speckled lips and toes, and fur like the skyfire of an autumn tree, Kane came along quite able to do quite a lot.
Kane was able to love, which makes everything else I’m about to say redundant.
Kane was able to crawl into the deepest keeps of our castles, where love and fear and sweetness — oh, scariest treasure — think they are safe.
Kane was able to cherish us, as only an exhausted old genius can do. And make no mistake: the orange cat had Einstein’s angel on one shoulder, and Mango‘s on another.
Kane was able to contract time, extracting us from our spotty ditherings and riveting us to this instant, this particular point in this particular river, the only one we could ever share.
Kane was able to command time, expanding it until we adored him as though he’d been ours a decade, an aeon, however long it takes to grow speckles on your lips and paws and soul.
Kane was able to love.
And we, fools or aspiring angels, were not able to do otherwise.
It is a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of Reckless Love, Irrational Love, Oversized Love. Prudent persons would advise caution, self-preservation, sturdy boots to avoid staggering into the river. Give your heart haplessly, and the grater of grief will hash-brown it to bits. One must be mindful of one’s one and only heart, handing it out only to the safe and the sturdy and the strong.
If one is able to limit love to reason.
Which we are not.
And so it happened.
Just a mile down the river, Kane collapsed. His huge heart threw a blood clot, and his legs buckled. We were not able to stop it. We were not able to reverse it. We were not able to keep him.
We were not able to keep it together, keep it cool, keep it calm.
We were not able to remember that this cat had been ours for less than a month.
We were not able to staunch the sadness that comes when you love too much, too large, too soon. And so, we wept.
We wept as we’d wept before, wept for one whose history with us was longer than the calendar can comprehend. We wept for the autumn we’d half-shared. We wept for each other, wept for the fact of death itself, wept for the inimitable orange individual who came and became our Kane and clobbered us with kindness.
We wept for the sweetness that snorkels just below the surface, the thing we want most, the thing we’re too prudent and reasonable to talk about, the thing we’re not able to deny when we’re gooey and grieving and real.
Kane, even exhausted, was not able to squelch the sweetness. No cat can. They are too much with the truth to toughen up that way.
Kane coaxed us into that river as best he could, the healing waters where we’re allowed to ache for sweetness.
You know the hunger and so do I. From our own kittenhoods, we’re drawn inexorably to the sweet. It’s why Reading Rainbow reruns can make you cry. It’s why yellow trees can break and mend your heart. It’s why your heart has no time for timekeeping. It’s why a cat you’ve loved twenty days is quite able to keep your soul company for the rest of your life.
Maybe autumn is the most honest season. Everything is so breathtaking and so temporary, our armor slips and we stop trying to permanent-marker the grit over our grins and griefs.
I tried to make sense of this as I wept, thought about how lately I’ve been goopy in all directions, driven to the sweet and the warm and the uncool. I moon over plastic Santas at Target; I pore over thrift store cookbooks where women from Alabama rhapsodize about Meemaw’s custard pie; I pin myself to practitioners of gush like Baby and Boobalah; I find myself unable to crawl out of love, feral love, dangerous love, with this broken-temporary-graced-glorious world.
I’m a trembly scout in Troop Too Much, Team Too Tender, the Army of the Unable-To-Stay-Unweepy, better known as Tabby’s Place.
But it’s a far wider fellowship than Tabby’s Place.
Maybe none of us are really able to love less, love logically, love little enough to keep the tears from happening and happening and happening.
Maybe Kane came to tell us that’s OK.
Maybe Kane is able to cheer our sweet, soft hearts from before the veil.
Surely Kane knows, as only saints and angels and exhausted genius cats can, that it will all happen again. Another broken cat will come, probably soon. We will give our hearts, immediately and entirely and imprudently. We will be shattered and soaked and splendored with the sweetness that survives death.
We are blessed, blessed, blessed to be all too able to love too much.
May it keep happening as long as we live.
Happy All Saints’ Day, Kane. Until we meet again…