This post has been weeks and prayers in the making.
So let’s start here: it’s cause for celebration that you’re reading this at all. The mere existence of this post means that Jude is still very much alive.
But first, permit me a brief excursion into Why I Don’t Write About Every Resident.
If given the time and words and soul-bandwidth, I would like to tell you the story of every single cat who enters Tabby’s Place. I’d show you their splendor, their utterly unrepeatable glory, and I’d make the world know that they lived.
I can only hope the sampling you savor hints at untold wonders, that you’ll come and see for yourself the full congregation of cats at Tabby’s Place, that your heart will be split open beyond these stories.
I have other (far, far less important) duties at Tabby’s Place than writing the blog, which gobble my time.
I don’t always get to know each cat well enough to do her justice in words.
But most of all — my confession today — to tell a story is to fall irrevocably in love with the life that lived it, at least when it comes to cats. Once you’ve transcribed the tale of a luminous life, you are forever different. Your heart is linked to another. Your ache at parting is great indeed.
Such was the case with Jude.
When his bare-bones story first reached us, I could easily imagine sharing it with you. He was a kitten; he seemed to have hydrocephalus; he was hanging out at a rescue group that adored him but couldn’t handle his medical mysteries. Kittens like Jude are who Tabby’s Place is for; that’s a story I know well.
I also knew — too well — that Jude wouldn’t be our first hydrocephalic kitten, but he would be only the second to survive infancy, if he was lucky. The cruel summer of 2018 had introduced us to two “hydro-babies,” only to steal them from our arms before they were even proper toddlers. I’d wanted to write about Hamilton and Flip too, but time and neurological cruelties ended their stories too soon.
Jude was another invitation to heartbreak.
On the morning he arrived at Tabby’s Place, we wrestled with possible names. There was some confusion about “the kitten”‘s gender — it’s always “the kitten” until your heart gets involved — so we needed a name that would do the work of making this little one strong while leaving room for the unknowns.
But just as the kitten was given, so was the name. From the ether it came to us: Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes.
At least we knew what we were getting into.
It was cold on the morning Jude arrived, but I shivered with anxiety as I was led to our Quarantine hallway to meet the kitten. I knew I was about to lose control of my only heart, poised on the edge of caring too much to escape pain.
And so it was.
It wasn’t Jude’s cuteness — cuteness is always important but never that important.
It wasn’t the telltale Big Giant Head and googly eyes of hydrocephalus.
It wasn’t the micro-meows from our tiniest tuxedo, or the sticky-uppy tail, or anything that could be seen or heard.
If ever I’m so foolish as to think, for a moment, that I am brave when it comes to love, I only need to look as far as my coworkers for a lesson in real courage. Danielle, having tenderly raised Hamilton and Flip, accepted without hesitation the opportunity to foster Jude. Karina, having taken in the likes of Tanzy and Cornell and Charlie, eagerly offered to forever foster the fighting smidgen.
Jude was engulfed by love before his wacky eyes even knew what to make of us. His life is shrouded in uncertainty, with a sole guarantee: unconditional, unwavering, un-giving-up love.
It’s a level of love that’s terrifying in its scope and its sacredness. It makes me tremble in the presence of something far greater than myself. And it means we may be shattered beyond repair, not for the first time, but in a way that is terribly new.
But then, we may not.
Where there’s life, there’s invincible hope.
And make no mistake; although we have no illusions about this disease, we know that hydrocephalic kittens can thrive into adulthood and beyond. (Exhibit A: the iconic Bialy, loving life in a forever home at age 9, mystifying neurologists all the way.) Miracles of all colors happen. We have the greatest team in the galaxy nudging those miracles into fact, from Jude’s world-class neurologist; to his superstar Tabby’s Place vet team of Dr. C, Denise and Jess; to I-don’t-know-how-she-does-it mama Karina, who holds him close through his seizures and whispers promises of hope and love and a future over his tiny, trembling head.
We feeble humans are afraid for Jude, but the tiniest tuxedo knows no fear. His large, water-logged head is the only noggin he’s ever known, and he’s toddling along, kittening around with all the playful, impish, affection-greedy goodness of a “normal” kitten.
We’re in for a supra-normal ride.
With all our hearts.
For all his life.
Love and risk along with us, kittens. When hearts are open, there are no impossible causes.