From the desk of Gothika, Dark Lord of the Grimalkins aka Kitty-Boy:
“It was a dark and stormy night.”
“Once upon a time, in a land far away. . .”
Oh drats! How does she do this? And why? Slavering for public approval like one of her hulking outdoor “pets” – is nothing beneath her dignity?
Actually, it was a rather ordinary night, but for the enormous Iah, (which modern humans, tapping into their full literary and imaginative potential, have dubbed “the Supermoon.” *sigh*). I had watched its ascent across the night sky, and had fallen asleep contentedly on the kitchen table (the Man having gone to bed hours earlier) when I was awakened by the horrible shrill of my human’s Pavlov Response system. (Please see footnote#1.) Inevitably, the humans shine at classical conditioning exercises, and I watched with some pride as they hurtled from their bed, donned boots and clothing, and scurried from the house. Their performance was marred only by a brief collision in the bathroom doorway. Both snarled and swore most impressively. My Human showed her teeth.
I did not see them again until the lovely Iah had disappeared over the hill. They came home positively reeking of house fire, their noses black with smoke and their eyes circled with it. Most alarming of all, My Human had turned to stone from wrists to elbows. (Please see footnote #2) She seemed most vexed at this transformation ie, more colorful swearing; she is truly well versed in language skills. The Man, as is often the case, was also quite vocal about the inciting incident, and implied that the entire fiasco could have been avoided had My Human slowed down and looked before you f**ng leaped.
I haven’t the faintest notion what My Human leaped into, but the results have been catastrophic. She has the temerity to pat my head with her stone hands! I very nearly chipped a tooth whilst defending myself. She is hit-and-miss with my food dish and her attempts at scooping my litterbox have been dismal. In the spirit of generosity, I left my latest offering on the floor next to the toilet and the ingrate swore at me! Who would have realized the tenuous connection between human hands and brains? Is her mind turning to stone as well? I fear it is a possibility.
My Human knows I must have ice in my water bowl at all times, and yet she is failing at even this simplest of tasks. When in desperation I stand on the (dirty!) dishes in the sink to drink from the faucet, she responds in the vilest manner by trying to lift me bodily with her concrete arms. I will not stand for it!
Alas, I fear for my well-being. If you are reading this, please send help. Preferably in the form of salmon.
Pink, Alaskan salmon. Fresh.
Canned tuna offerings will be summarily rejected.
#1 Nine-one-one page to a fire.
#2 Arm casts from wrist to elbow.
All Soul’s Night creeps upon us in new darkness, the sun snuffed before six thirty as effectively as calloused fingers pinching a faltering flame.
Light, then; we’re seeking light.
And we find it, in a fashion. Here in these old wooden pews where the same families have sat for generations with the stained-glass saints gazing impassively from above, already immortal. Here in the scent of candle wax and cool, moist brick. Here in the words, the kneelers, the lovely ritual.
Eternal rest grant to them oh Lord. And may a perpetual light shine upon them.
Ah. Them. Those who have left us. If you’ve lived very long, you have them; if you’ve lived well, you loved them and you probably still do. Everyone here carries this with them. Think about that for a moment – all of us here, suffering that quiet loss together and yet still so alone. I could name you . . . ah well, they’re gone.
My line of work loans itself to the occasional death; my keenest losses are sometimes total strangers, and I don’t know if that makes it easier or harder. I only know that it is. And so, I am thinking of the hands I have held, the comfort I have tried to extend, the way that death slides over a face as implacably as the lavender sky smoothing after the sun has set. I am thinking this when something the priest says reels me back.
“If we live to give God joy,” he says. “Then we live in joy.”
Such a lovely voice, this man – an even and perfect tenor that loans itself well to sweeping statements. He imparts this nugget as though it is ipso facto.
Live in joy.
But no. Sweet October has blown away as quickly as it came, and with it the color, the laughter and the bright expectations. November is as gray and chilly as the Chicago lakefront; it knows no joy. And the dead are – whether by accident or design, holding your hand or not – dead.
Ah, but they’re not. We’re here, tonight, because of them, aren’t we? And don’t we feel them – the caress on our cheeks, the voices in our ears, the little breath of life stirring the downy hair of the child sitting in front of you?
Where they are, they are living in joy.
But it’s bigger than that. The priest is right. If we – all of us here, and everyone we knew – were to go forward in joy from this night on, then our worries, our sorrows, our carefully cultivated grudges – none of these could hurt us ever again. We’d have no room for hurt, or for tears, or for misunderstandings. Joy. Each moment, every breath, etched in gold. The utter certainty of loving and being loved. We could wrap ourselves in that and this fear – this fear of loss, of heartbreak, of dying – would cower in our wake until it finally disappeared altogether.
That’s so big, it’s probably too big for us. But maybe we’re meant to try.
Outside, darkness has set in with a vengeance, the tiny pools of crystalline light from the stained-glass windows fading completely before I have gotten to my car. But I crank Sister Hazel on my iPod, and I sing along, all the way home.
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