"Hello," I say as I greet Sirius, the latest Calliope cat. But as I lean down to stroke his upturned face, another word flashes through my mind. "Goodbye."
Like Starlight, Sirius is FIV positive. But his story is a happier one. He was rescued before life on the streets drained too much of his strength; his health is good. As proof, I need only catch the sight of his round belly swinging ever so slightly as he runs over to greet me. He shows every sign of living up to his name as the brightest star in the night sky. "I have many years ahead," his shining eyes communicate. "Now feed me!"
As Sirius and I cuddle on the couch, again I think of Starlight. But my thoughts are no longer sad ones. They do not whisper to me about the past; they navigate around what could have been. They speak instead about the future: a future working with other passionate rescuers, opening up my heart to animals that need me, and making peace with the knowledge that in every hello lives a goodbye.
I will someday say goodbye to Sirius too. Mixed with my excitement over his finding his forever home will be the same pocket of sadness that accompanies all goodbyes. I'll shuffle around his empty room feeling slightly lost and disoriented. I'll want to call his new family an hour after he's left to ask how he's adjusting. I'll remember other beloved people or animals I've said goodbye to, perhaps railing against the unfairness of not being able to control when or how those goodbyes unfolded. And I'll have an hour or two when I decide that hellos are not worth the goodbyes. Opening up my heart knowing that loss will follow is for fools, I'll convince myself.
Soon after that, another animal will need me. The cycle will repeat. I will become a fool filled with joy and purpose who knows that the antidote for goodbye sickness is a new hello.