Stories bring us home

Stories bring us home


Can you imagine?

Jean Valjean
Jean Valjean by the luminous Mark, who tells stories with his lens and loves Valjean mightily.

Can you imagine, being eight years old, and having picked a kitten to be your personal kitten…and then having him get so sick that you have to wait and wait and wait and wait until he’s okay enough to survive your arms?

Can you imagine, being dealt a disease that wants you dead, only to live and live and thumb your heart-shaped nose at the dark?

Can you imagine?

You can. I know you can.

We can’t help but read our stories into everything we see. What are we, if not tangles of stories, beginnings and middles and endings sticking out all akimbo? We’re fragile little things, we and our stories, and we can never be quite inoculated against all that wants to infect us out there.

People who chase tornadoes, those wild-eyed men in Indiana Jones hats and bouncing pickups, are often derided as reckless. But I wonder if it isn’t we who are throwing ourselves into the real storms, daring to love and lose and get battered and blessed over and over and over again. Can you imagine? I know you can.

We don’t have to do much imagining to conjure up shadows this young summer. Nimbus left us.* Marvin and Ted, though rallying now, have trembled under the weight of kitten-illness, breaking their small humans’ hearts with waiting. And as I plunk out these words, forces beyond our control threaten a cat we love more than music.

Valjean, lean but unbowed, by Jess B
Valjean, lean but unbowed, by Jess B

Jean Valjean‘s trial has happened so suddenly that I’m still reflexively rejecting it, two-year-old style: “NO! NO! NOOOOO!!!”

One day he was fine, laying on the cool speckled floor of Suite FIV, bopping lesser beings in the head and vaulting his majesty into lucky laps. One day he was a little leaner but still fine, still laying and bopping and vaulting and loving. And then one day he’d lost three pounds, and lab tests showed Very Bad Things, and Dr. Fantastic said there was Something Bad Inside, and blood transfusions failed, and anemia slithered on, and there was nothing more to do, and Dr. C said those words I hate, I hate, I hate, “monitoring for quality of life,” and then, and then…

…and then Valjean kept laying on the cool speckled floor of Suite FIV, and he kept bopping lesser beings, and he kept vaulting into lucky laps even when they cried streets in his stripes.

Today, this day, his story goes on. One day, it will be otherwise. I don’t know if that day will be tomorrow or thirty-one years from now (in which case, I suspect the Star-Ledger may finally pick up one of our press releases: “FIV+ cat celebrates 38th birthday: ‘I still hate his frickin stupid Les Mis name,’ says Jonathan Rosenberg”).

Bring him peace, bring him joy...
Bring him peace, bring him joy...

Until then, I cling to these stories like a “NO”-ing two-year old with a fistful of blueberries in each fat hand. I can’t hold them all, can’t carry them all, can’t save them all. I smush things when I try to make them better. I have neither skills nor power. All I have is a big bucket of stories. Stories seem feeble. What good are written memories in times of shadows?

What good?

Perhaps good enough.

The great Brian Doyle has said that “to remember is to pray.” So we gather jars full of these lightning-bright stories, greedy for them, holding them to our faces until the sparks fly upward.

Even then, the story doesn’t end.

Please lift our Valjean in your glowing prayers, amis. It’s always been true that when we reach the end of our rope/options/medical expertise/words, we’re in position to drop heavy into greater hands, the Greater Story. We don’t know if we’ll be gently placed back on the peaks we knew or borne off to another sort of miracle. But we know, we know, that we will be caught.

God on high, hear our prayer. Whether it be home to health or home to Your arms, bring him home. Bring us all home. Make our stories an offering, a prayer, a light that darkness cannot overcome.

And may it be that, all along, he's been the one praying for us?

*More on Nimbus from his dear friend Karina soon.

3 thoughts on “Stories bring us home

  1. Love this article about Jean Valjean. Yes, I pray and want the best for him. JV knows we love him and doing his best to be with us. Even his name is perfect, he really shows his tabby colors and so proud of him.

  2. Oh, sweet Jean – you can’t leave us now. All prayers being sent fervently for this wonderful soul that he remains healthy and pain-free and in our loving arms, before he goes to the loving arms of the One Who Made Us. God bless, little sweet cat.

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