Holy moly, humans. We’re a holey bowl of needers, aren’t we?
Fragile doilies. Patchwork jeans. Slim slices of Swiss.
But we are surrounded by creatures who consider themselves the living equivalents of chunk cheese.
They are more than happy to patch our holes with melty mercy.
Memorial Day is a daily occurrence for a certain species of sentimentalists.
Yes, we flap our flags and salute our fallen on the last Monday in May, as we should.
But when your heart is impossibly soft and your life has been made possible by love, you’re always grieving a little.
Or a lot.
You’re grieving the 21-year-old cat who shared your secrets and your office for six years, every one of them a gift, the sum total of them less than “enough.”
You’re grieving the gallop of years through Honey‘s body. The same passage of time that has built your friendship is also hurtling, hilly-nilly, towards the finish line of a life that should never, ever end.
You’re grieving the gaps in Lynette‘s love life, the abandonments that chucked her from safety to sadness. She’s here now, and that should be all that matters, and it is all that matters, but something catches in the back of your throat when you remember how she suffered.
You’re grieving the existence of suffering at all, the suffering of the fragile young and the threadbare old and the anxious and the breakable and the innocent.
You’re grieving the absence of answers.
You’re grieving the disenchantment.
You’re grieving the gritty granite eyes that can’t see the beauty of the bonfire, the cold ones and the hard ones and the exhausted ones who stand outside, with their arms crossed, when they could be here with us.
You’re grieving the gaps in grace that we all fall through every day.
The ones who loved you back to life yesterday can’t bear your stale second-day suffering.
The hammock where you hurled your sobby body turned out to be a doily, and you fell.
The oaks who were supposed to be your everything turned out to be only something.
No one could meet all your needs.
And you grieve.
And then, maybe you have an experience like mine. Surely you do.
Durin crawls into your lap. Eyes bright and paws on your chest, he huddles you onto the griddle of his grace, pancaking you with purrs and presence, here and now, where memory and time collapse into stardust.
Everything in his essence exclaims: I! AM! HERE! FOR! YOU!
Or Boba thunders down the ramp and rolls like a log. She activates that motorized flapping-fish toy that lesser cats find terrifying, and deactivates your dirge. She tells you, on her loud and imperfect boombox, that she is with you now, and you are not alone, you are never alone, no never never never. Never. Ever. No. Never. Got that?
Or Grecca wears her oldness like a shawl, full of holes and years and memories. She promenades through the Lobby as though auditioning for Sunset Boulevard. It’s as though she intends to make every remaining hour a sunrise, which she does. It’s as though the dawn will defeat the dark, which it will.
Or Gator asks you repeatedly for Swiss cheese. (Let the reader understand that everything Gator does is an expression of this behest, this invocation, this solemn convocation of all the holes in all the cheeses to align, so he can peer through them to the other side of the universe. Gator is a deep sort of glutton that way.)
And then, properly cat-conked, you remember.
You remember that you got to love the 21-year-old cat at all, and love outlives life.
You remember that you can return to that love every day, every breath, as needed, and it has the power to make you strong.
You remember that time is a taker, but it’s also a builder, and there are cathedrals that only hold together with the mortar of tears and years.
You remember that Lynette remembers nothing except everything beautiful, and this just might be a choice.
You remember that suffering can strangle us, or it can be the red scarf that catches compassion’s attention.
If we never ached aloud, we would never summon sweet street urchins, brave enough to dive to the dangerous places.
You remember that most answers are holey, but honest questions are holy, and love is strong enough to bear them both.
You remember that the circle is unbroken, that Rose and Reese and Adam and Bucca are eternal. Seeing isn’t everything, and nothing is lost.
You remember that wanderers come back, and only a broken heart can pour out a glass of lemonade.
You remember that salty tears save gritty granite eyes, and the invitation home is irrevocable.
You remember that no one can be everyone, and each one will let you down, but that’s such a relief we should have a parade about it.
You remember that life will love you through many “someones,” and you’re a someone too, and each of us gets to be the holy, holey anyone we’re still becoming.
You remember that, somewhere along the trail, you learned to love cats, and no one can ever take that comfort from you.
You remember that you’re not the only one who loves cats, and kooky quirky colorful comforters are coming for you around every corner.
You remember that holes come with humanity, but you’re part of a community.
If all our Swiss cheeses let themselves melt, we can cover the chasms and fill the bellies and make the memories that will be enough.
You remember that you are blessed and lucky to be full of holes, because that means you’re full of feeling.
And you get up.
And you grab a sandwich.
And you rise in honor of the fallen.
And you lift someone else.
Happy Memorial Day, kittens.