As you are falling asleep, imagine you are a cat. An orange cat–or perhaps calico–lounged on the edge of a marble pool, drenched in just-warm-enough sunlight. In the pool swims a single tasty koi, waiting for your expert hunter’s claws to make short work of it. Everything is soft
You are safe here.
The tape went something like that–some two-sided sleep meditation my parents played for me as a child. The other side turned you into a horse. But this is not a time for horses. This is a time for cats.
I haven’t been able to write this. It’s been too much, too heavy, my hands don’t work, they tremble and twitch from my illness, my head is in a fog all the time–all true, but not why I’ve been silent on the death of my godmother. I’ve been silent because there is simply too much to say. For this, I will never be empty of words. I overflow and drown myself in them, getting caught up in the absolutely absurd unreality of the idea that Kathryn is dead.
In the hospital, waiting for her to die, I had a vision. She reached out one milk-and-freckles hand to me and said, “Hey there, my girl.” They say that their voices are the first thing you forget, but hers was so clear, is still so clear. She smiled, no small smile, but the vast and unabashed smile of a woman who knows who she is and where she belongs and loves it. It was not an uncommon smile from her, but it was, I realized, the last one I was ever going to see. And something small and fragile and very, very important inside me broke a little bit, then. I felt the happy, hopeful child in my heart teeter on the edge, so close to breaking.
But she stood next to me then, bare feet muddy and smeared with crushed greenery as if she’d been in the garden, and she pointed a stern finger at me. “You are better than that,” my imaginary Kathryn told me, and, “you have too much doing to get done. Shoo, girl–shoo!” Then she hugged me in the hallway in the middle of a quiet moment at Dragon*con six months before, but right then, right there in my head, if you know what I mean–both moments at once, like two beads on a beading needle, struck through and pinned together for a moment. Small things–her medical bracelet. The watercolor bleed of teal in her hair. The conspiratorial feeling of eating our lunches sitting on the floor beneath the NO LOITERING and NO FOOD OR DRINK IN THIS AREA signs. In the real event, we talked about nothing and all the important things, like tea and TARDIS costumes and Bruce and how we were short enough to pretend that the signs were too high up for us to have noticed before we sat down. In real life, a security guard told us to leave.
We did not leave.
In my head, though, in the surgery waiting room at four-and-change in the morning where I was having a vision while keeping vigil, there–there, I sat in the flattest grey room where I was the only one except for Bruce (asleep on a couch) and Maria (in the restroom or stretching her legs or something), and I bit my teeth into my arm and let out one very ugly sob.
The vision-that-wasn’t-and-was-just-imagining-most-likely smiled her other smile, her Mrs. Weasley smile, and cupped my cheek. She pushed her forehead against mine and sighed a long sigh, and I knew then that, for all the prayers and spells and tiny thread magics we’d all done, she was already taking off her shoes and looking up the great winding way to Summerland. I’d never actually believed in it before, for all I was raised with it as my people’s idea of heaven. But there she was, forehead to my forehead and at the same time dancing in a green dress–a green dress shedding flowers as she took each step, both Demeter and Persephone, mother and daughter alike, the sound of bells like new beginnings all around her.
I knew two things with utter certainty in that moment–that she wasn’t going to make it and that, too, she would be just fine.
Since Kathryn died, things have stopped happening to me in order. Billy Pilgrim has, as it were, come unstuck in time. I hover indistinctly between my daily life and a meditation tape about cats coming through the speakers of a mint green stereo that doesn’t exist anymore. I am utterly unsure how to mourn a loss so vast as this small woman. When I try, my thoughts go into the proverbial fetal position and I am a cat. I am a cat, an orange cat, or perhaps a calico, lounged on the edge of a marble pool, drenched in just-warm-enough sunlight. I think it’s maybe a memory she handed back to me so I could survive this. Alena couldn’t handle this, but that cat, well, she can die from grief eight times before she has to worry about that ninth life.
It’s not enough. As Kathryn said often, I am a worrier.
In the hospital that last time she looked like a mermaid. I held her cool underwater goddess hand while she slept and I told her unimportant things so that I didn’t have to ask the important things like why didn’t you say goodbye to me or why didn’t you tell me it was so serious or there are whole parts of me you made from raw clay and tears and I can’t lose you or did you love your new daughter more than me or you’re never going to meet my someday-child or read my first book or read my first book to my someday-child or, most selfish, please don’t leave me, I am already so alone.
So I stood at her feet and anointed my hands with amber oil and did reike until there was nothing left in me. I thought of Briar’s Book and the four children jumping into death after Rosethorn to bring her back and hated myself for not being good enough at whatever that sort of thing is to jump in after her and drag her back, too. I imagined the way she’d cross her arms and look at me with her Look and stare me down until I stopped being stupid and went back to the waiting room.
I stayed an extra minute, just to be stubborn and impossible one last time.
Where am I going with this? My thoughts don’t come in order anymore, either, but that’s the illness that’s still dragging at me. Where am I going with this?
We’ll get together when we’re both feeling better is the very last thing she said to me aloud, alive. But between the two of us, our faulty human machines, we were never both feeling better. I don’t regret it or sit around muttering to myself If I’d just seen her again! I loved her, she loved me, and we both knew it. She was my Mrs. Weasley before there were books to put a name to it.
There was nothing unsaid between us; she taught me more of what I know than nearly anyone, and she believed in me in a way that I could physically feel every time she hugged me. There’s no last miracle to wish for. I just put her ashes in a ziplock baggie, for goodness’ sake, and put them in the mail. I held a piece of her bone, her bone, in my hand. That must mean it’s real, I guess. So where am I going with this? Forward, I guess. There is nowhere to go but forward, always forward.
I should probably wax rhapsodic on her virtues and my gratitude and how much she affected my life. But I can’t. She was too much, too many things, too vast. Even gone, she lingers. She is the sea. She is the small shred of courage needed to do the improbable and demand the impossible. She is my mother-sister-friend. She is a very small Amazon. She is the sound of a harp over water, calling you through the veil on Holy Days. She is a whirlwind of poetry and little-known history and deep, deep, blood-from-the-soul kindness. She is the act of squaring your shoulders and pursing your lips and tightening your fists until you are strong enough. She is the voice in my bones that tells me that I am beautiful but that it doesn’t matter at all if I’m beautiful because I’m clever. She is the act of enduring because there is no choice but to fucking endure. She is every comforting cup of tea in the whole world. She was my shelter when the storms in my life were too strong to weather. She was, and always shall be, my Mrs. Weasley, and I am not lost without her–she taught me too well how to find my way.
And I like to think too, now and then, that she is somewhere being an orange cat–or perhaps calico, yes, calico–lounged on the edge of a marble pool, drenched in just-warm-enough sunlight, and that I will find her there when I, too, take to the winding way.
Until then, I will live with her close to my heart, drawing and dancing and writing and demanding the improbable of myself to make her proud.
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