It’s freeing to come clean about our smudges and strangeness.
For instance: I wear more ruffles than is age-appropriate. I’m looking for a man who is equal parts Pope Francis and Jimmy Fallon. I habitually use more paper towels than required for the task at hand. I find some of the spam we get on Felis Catus awesomely hilarious.*
And sometimes I struggle not to judge humans.
It’s funny how we don’t do this with cats. We squish the fat ones. We wink at the one-eyed ones. We mosey with the slow ones and cheer for the weird ones.
We lay like yin and yang with the quadriplegic ones — or, rather, one.
While we’ve had a platoon of paraplegics at Tabby’s Place, we’d never known a cat unable to use 4/4 legs until Casper.
The handsome young cat had many advantages. Chief among them was several layers of love. Casper was loved by his first human, a lady whose heart broke when she had to move to Poland and leave him behind; he was loved by the saints who took him into their freewheeling outdoor kindle of cats; and he was loved by Love bigger than any mere mortal can muster.
All that love came desperately due one morning when Casper failed to show up for breakfast. His saints searched him out, fear and hope tangling in their souls. They didn’t find the worst…but they found the second-worst.
Casper was completely immobile, unable even to lift his head.
His saints gave their all, seeing Casper through a furious ride to the emergency vet. Thousands of dollars and prayers and tears later, they could do no more. The finest specialists had only uncertainty to offer: perhaps Casper could walk again. Maybe he could live on like this. It’s possible his condition could become fatal.
Uncertainty is a smudge too scary for most. Yet Casper’s saints hung on through the mystery, seeking the right place for him to receive ongoing care. As no strangers to the holy uncomfortableness of mystery, Tabby’s Place would soon be Casper’s home.
The wide-eyed white cat came to us only to brave a fresh flurry of tests. This time, there were shreds of certainty: Casper had not suffered a trauma (car accident, animal attack, bite from abominable snowman etc). Casper did have some sort of Bad Item in his spine. But then all became inscrutable: Maybe it was spinal lymphoma. Most likely that would be fatal. But perhaps it was a blood clot. Possibly that could resolve (a la Morgan and Sylvia), leading to recovery and even mobility. Based on the location of the Bad Item, we couldn’t diagnose it any further. The only options were euthanasia…or waiting and working through the mystery.
The same questions swarming your mind battered ours: What kind of life is that? Are we doing him any favors to keep him going? Is this cruel? Are we kidding ourselves?
These questions make solid sense in brains and on paper. These questions scatter like crows when you actually meet the flesh-and-fur soul behind them.
White as a dove and serene as a saint, Casper unpins you upon your first meeting. The universal human reaction to this cat is to lay down on the floor, curl into a C, and gaze into his eyes. (I’ve seen children do it. I’ve seen adults of all ages and both genders do it. I’ve seen myself do it. I imagine The Hulk, Gandalf and Donald Trump would all do it, too.) In those eyes is life, a spark so incandescent that the only appropriate answer is yes.
We’ve taken the road of acceptance and uncertainty, and the cat with the smudge on his head and the smudge on his spine has “rewarded” us with more miracles.
Perhaps it’s Denise’s tireless hours of physical therapy. Perhaps it’s Jane’s highly original songs. Perhaps it’s all of us laying on the floor. Perhaps it’s the finger of God Himself. Whatever it is, Casper is lifting his head, wiggling his legs, working on walking, and saying yes with every fiber of his being.
We love him as he is, and love is making him become more than he is.
Our wholehearted acceptance of Casper — mystery and imperfection and all — keeps making me wonder: why are humans exempt such largesse of the soul?
I don’t know quite why this is the case. You would think we’d want to be like those people who make life worth living. And who are the life-givers if not the ones who take us as we are?
Think of the last time you left someone’s presence feeling a little more whole, a little more holy, a little more fully alive. Did they wince at your nerdy shoes or snidely comment on your laziness? Did they tell you you’re a bad example or say your feet smell like cheese?
Or did they, simply, love you?
We’re all reaching for the light, wanting to be more and better and truer than we are. Love doesn’t mean ignoring the places that need to heal. But maybe the road to wholeness isn’t lined with signs that say “MORE BETTER FASTER NOW!”, but rather flowers that smell like I love you exactly as you are, all the way down the road to where you’re going.
We are all uncertain creatures. Let’s be gentle with each other through this mystery. It’s the surest stream to healing.
*Honest-to-heaven actual example: “Hi, I do think this is an excellent blog. I stumbledupon it I’m going to come back once again since I book-marked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide others.” Word, spambler. Word.
Photo credits from top: Denise X3, certain Executive Director whose name may rhyme with Ronathan, Denise. All Denise’s photos taken while loving on and/or painstakingly treating Casper. She is his #2 hero (after Anthony, before Optimus Prime).