Crybaby moment of the week: listening to Johnny Cash's "Daddy Sang Bass"
Today we received Monkey's ashes and it was bittersweet. The vet was very sweet and took a few minutes to talk with us and ask how we are doing and we told the truth: some days it's better, some days it's worse. We brought her a small fruit bouquet as a gesture of thanks and appreciation - and good health! I was really tempted to bring cookies or cupcakes, but I thought in light of the situation, healthy snacks was probably more appropriate (let's toast to Heart Disease with a Whitman's Sampler!). She was really touched by it and we told her that we wanted her to know just how hard of a job she has. Think about it: vets see your pets when they're sick, so the animals dislike them and then they hand you a bill and you start to dislike them... and if you only have the one pet (or one sick pet) you might never see them again - there's just no winning! We also were sure to express the thoughtful selections offered for cremation - that there are only 2 simple options. That in our time of sadness, we could have easily been sold on a Rolls Royce or diamond encrusted Sean John casket, which we would have regretted later. I even joked about taxidermy and that I was glad she didn't offer that as a service and she said "you'd be surprised how many people ask about that." And actually, I wouldn't.
Everyone, everywhere has really been so kind. I can't express how much it has meant to me (and Ryan and Ruckus too). Some of the best internet people in the entire world propped me up by emails and text messages through the hardest days. They even sent flowers (gorgeous shades of yellow and orange) and a keepsake pendant which I will wear until FOREVER. The pendant is made to hold some of Monkey's ashes and is a subtle little circle* that is beautiful and stylish and doesn't scream I AM A CRAZY LADY WEARING A DEAD CAT 'ROUND MY NECK. Although I totally feel that way and am not ashamed. In fact, I am also making a picture frame necklace with his fur in it and OMG if I had thought of it before, I would have saved all his stray fur and really gone nuts with it.
This whole experience has gotten me thinking a lot about death, obviously, and how it's so sad that in our modern age we've been taught to just let the dead go. Keep a picture or an heirloom piece of jewelry, shed your tears and get on with it. It makes complete sense why people would want to freeze dry their cats and wear pendants of their ashes. It's the only "appropriate" outlet for grief. If you told people that you kept a lock of your grandma's hair in your locket, you'd get some weird looks. But pet fur and you get all the 'aww' that you'll ever need. There was once a time when grieving was a personal affair. You prepared the body in your own home, held a wake with your beloved in their own bed. Even photographed the funeral, so that you would have a keepsake of those final times together. Nowadays people would faint if you pulled out a snapshot of a body in a casket. Death has been given - erroneously, in my opinion - this ridiculous taboo and 'ick' factor. In truth, it is less painful to be a part of the process, rather than to be hidden away behind a curtain with sterile gloves on. And the only way that most of us will experience first-hand what dealing directly with death is like is with our pets. We have the option to do as we like with them, which we do not have with our own families - or ourselves. You cannot choose to bring granny home to be buried under her favorite tree. Or taxidermied so that it looks like she is napping in her rocking chair. Not that I would want to do either of those things but still... you have some control over the passing of your pet. Even if the passing itself was out of your control, you have a bigger say in what happens next. And so that means that I want to take a small reminder of him with me everywhere. I'll wear a locket of orange fur and a jar of his ashes close to my heart. Because I can.
*also, if the need should ever arise for you to buy a keepsake pendant, I highly recommend Whisper in the Heart. The owner started the business in memory of her dog Whisper and she pours all of her love into each and every item. My pendant is not only lovely, but she sent a very dear personal note along with it and an invitation to keep in touch. It may seem silly on the outside, but when you are stricken with grief, it's nice to know that others can sympathize and aren't driven by ulterior motives.