Tell me, please.
How is it that you can lose and lose and never be empty?
Not that there aren’t void-carving weeks around here, this being one of the hardest and howlingest I remember.
That Angel, Valkyrie of the lobby. That Felix, siren of the sink. Icons! Archetypes! Pillars of the earth!
Every loss, you know, is terrible in its own way and in all the universal ways. And everyone asks, once they get an inkling of what we do and what it does to a soul, how we can endure “it” over and over and over again.
I have more questions than answers, but I know this to be true: against all understanding, we are never left to become utterly empty.
But this is not a time to get meta about our own grief. This is a time to look around the empty tables and food bowls and Lounge sink and sing the songs still echoing in the air. This is the borderland between two eras, and we have to look back to survive forward.
The age of Angel began unceremoniously, as they always do. In our notes and charts and miscellaneous scribblings, we have records of where we got each Tabby’s Place resident. In Angel’s case, I can still remember Jonathan’s scrawl: “washing machine man.”
Through some series of circumstances, the aging calico had ended up in the care of our washing machine repairman. He could not keep her, and he was too good a man to smuggle her into our washing machine, so he asked, and we yessed, and Angel was ours. One more cat in Quarantine for three weeks; one more old broad to seat in a spot befitting her age and her elegance.
About that elegance, though; Angel was no Audrey Hepburn, no Grace Kelly. She was completely and cheerfully Carol Burnett, a tall, sturdy block of a giddy, gung-ho girl. She shouted her way through the lounge on loud feet, food-motivated and love-motivated and monarchy-motivated, as she planted her flag in every colonized heart.
Of hearts, she desired and acquired them all. And so, her passing was the collapse of an empire, hundreds of vassals happy to pop her baby food jars and pet her big, square head as she hollered with joy.
Angel’s exit was still fresh and raw when Felix took the turn he had no business taking.
But then, Felix’s business was entirely Felix’s own business, and he harbored no modesty about crushing conventions. The sunniest personality this side of Sesame Street, Felix chose to cover himself in perpetual rain. Felix may have had mad, moony love for every human he ever met, but there was no denying that his immortal beloved was…the Lounge sink.
Felix would sit in aforementioned sink ten hours a day, delighting in driblets as they cascaded down his forehead. He’d go trancelike, a mystic in the mist of Ringoes, NJ tap water. When a person approached, and Felix’s greater love of Sink should meet his lesser love of Human Huggage…O MIRABILE DICTU!
Loving and lapping and squishing his sodden-headed way through the years, Felix made his own rules, letting little irritations drip right off his forehead like so many thousands of gallons of tap water. But Felix broke one rule too many when his kidneys collapsed.
Kidney disease is horribly common in cats, but it’s usually a slow train coming, years of waiting and testing and fluids and special diets before anyone’s fixin’ to die. Felix didn’t have time for that; if there would be fluids in his life, they would only come from the tap. So his kidney disease came on like Godzilla, going from zero to incompatible with life in mere weeks. We ruled out infection; we tried everything short of summoning the spirit of the washing machine repairman; we failed, and Felix’s kidney’s failed, and he left us.
It would all seem like too much at once, too much loss in the long parade of pain that is this business of loving too much. We’re fools, you know, getting our hearts so sloshy-full of emotion and devotion for these short-lived creatures, even though we know what we know. Sure enough, our beakers get broken and our love gets dumped all over the floor, and the emptiness shrieks through the rafters until we think we can’t breathe…
…and then breath comes from beyond.
It’s clearly not an inside job, this will to continue. When it comes, if it comes, it’s gift and grace and sheerly supernatural. So I understand the people who follow life-smashing loss with the vow, “I will never adopt an animal again. I just can’t.” But for the Tabby’s Place fools and the fools who follow us, that’s not a door that’s open to us. Not our call. Not our book.
So we wake, and the broken beaker-hearts are full again, already sloshing over the edges, fragile and foolish and refilled from a source that has never run dry.
It’s an agony. It’s a delight. It’s a miracle.
And for each one and each one and each one, we do it again. Or rather, it’s done through us and for us, ever and ever amen.
Housekeeping note: Your March Epilogues will ep and logue their way your way next week. Felix and Angel were a pair of perfect bossypants, so it’s only right that they rearrange our regularly scheduled programming.