Heartbroken, necessary intro: When I wrote this post, seemingly a hundred years ago, and queued it up for this lovely random Monday in August, I had no idea it would turn into a “Forever Loved.” How I wish it were otherwise.
But our treasured Heather left this world on Friday, 8/13. Love and grief are too intermingled right now to say much more, so I will let my living tribute stand as is. Today I quietly thank God for the friendship of this vast-hearted silver cat. Until we meet again, beloved Heather. — AH
Everybody has dreams.
Someone wants to become a doctor.
Someone wants to write prose that heals.
Someone wants to invent the very first edible vegan cheese. (I did not say all dreams can come true.)
Someone wants to sink into a large round object that appears to be covered in shredded pink coconut and hug her best friend.
I have it on good authority that Heather dreams of all of the above, but today we shall focus on the fourth item.
Heather is a simple creature. (The best and wisest always are.)
Heather has lived most of her sixteen-plus years at Tabby’s Place. She has spent the majority of these four presidential terms looking concerned. Her eyes are naturally the size of Saturn’s moons, but when they land on a human, they stretch galaxies. Should that human be a loud or lumbering sort, you can actually feel the universe expanding within Heather’s green globes.
Sharing an office with Heather has been an honor and a delight and an exercise in learning to be quiet (not my forte) and to move slowly (let’s just say this is my pianissimo). Looking at her looking at me, I have more than once heard my father’s voice saying one of his ultimate Dadisms: “Don’t stare at me like a dumbfounded albatross.”
(I swear I am not making this up. My Dad was, in fact, that cool and strange. He also wore a hat like Indiana Jones and called our marmalade cat “my good red man” and sang bad 90s pop with me at the top of his considerable lungs. But I digress.)
But Heather is neither dumbfounded nor much like the bird associated with burdens. (Let the record show that my Dad would have never actually said his phrase to any cat.) She is entirely, exquisitely aware of the scope of the situation, and the situation happens to be vast.
She is here, breathing, on this planet, with this wobbly human and many others. Also approximately one hundred nineteen cats, one of whom is the heart of her heart and the soul of her soul. She is well and truly alive, in a world of summer rain and star-shaped kibble and white gardenias and mercy and mystery, and how could that not be simultaneously terrifying and spectacular and worthy of stretching your eyes worlds-wide?
If Heather is quiet, it’s because she’s taking it all in.
Maybe Heather has never been a high-touch cat because the world inside is so touching, and total, and luscious. Maybe she stares with what looks like The Big Scared because she can hardly take it all in. Maybe she’s a gasping galaxy of overwhelmed because she actually sees and feels it all, and she’s simple and wise enough to be awestruck and starstruck and dumbstruck, which is the very opposite of dumb. Maybe there’s a reason her favorite song is “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” although she, too, has a soft spot for bad 90s pop.
Maybe she’s perpetually perplexed by us (as any sane creature should be). All day, we flap our stubby wings and fling ourselves against windows, willing them to be sky, lamenting all the little dullardly duties and iota-sized interruptions that keep us from our real dreams and destinies and starfields of purpose.
Heather doesn’t get this flapping and flinging one bit. If Heather could talk, she wouldn’t, but if she did, she might ask, in a voice softer than stardust, “Don’t you see it all?”
Heather is wordless but purpose-packed.
And maybe her purpose is to remind us: the minutia is the mission.
The tiny tasks are our lives.
The unseen acts are our legacies.
They don’t look it. They look like irritating emails to answer, or piles of cat puke, or teary-voiced best friends on the phone at 2am, or meetings that lunk over into lunch because someone has the courage to get real.
They look like laundry undone and forgiven, or letters written to the sharp-tongued aunt who lives in loneliness, or long brushing sessions with the greasy, bony beloved who was once your kitten.
The messy moments of choosing to love; the feats of patience; the victories of selflessness and votes for mercy; the gentleness and generosity and grit-teeth goodness when we want badly to be bad; these are the stories that are ultimately the Great Story.
Heather, of course, is no small storyteller. In her four Olympics worth of years, she has mastered the art of meaning. Curled in her coconut-snowball bed, she bends rivers of friendship around Ronnie Island. On foggy pastel feet, she pads at a pace that soothes neurotic Bucca (speaking of women who are a little too fast and loud for their own good).
In the company of well-meaning lesser beings (that’s you and me, kittens), she stretches past her own comfort zone to let us love her, touch her, feel good about ourselves and life and the sacred moment we’ve been given together.
Heather is living the dream.
As I type this email, Heather is also living a quiet battle, for which I solicit your prayers. At sixteen, Heather is battling cancer.
She doesn’t talk about it, and we don’t force the issue.
At her age, with her lifetime of requesting a light touch when it comes to human touch, treatment will be delicate. Respectful. Noninvasive.
As is usually the case, we’re far more concerned about this than Heather seems to be. (Her concerns, as noted, are vast beyond the stars, but they lie elsewhere.)
We will do everything in our power to keep her stars in alignment, to ensure that all the constellations smile upon her, and to wrap her in all the love that many multiverses can hold, delivered in her own quiet language.
This much is certain: Heather’s life, in all its moments, will be meteoric with mission and meaning.
May we have the enormous eyes to see that ours can be, too.