I picked up Stan’s ashes from the vet yesterday. They were returned to us on the day the pet crematorium had said they would, but there had been a minor mix up and they were taken back to the branch where we’d taken his body last Sunday (the branch that is open for 24 hour emergencies) instead of our local branch as we’d asked. This wasn’t a big deal and I wasn’t upset or angry about it, but it meant a 45-minute trip instead of the 15-minutes it would have taken otherwise.
There is something very sad about collecting your beloved pet from the vets in a box in a carrier bag, even though it was a good quality and tastefully decorated one with outlines of cats and dogs inside heart shapes printed onto the sides. I was ok going into the vets, but emotions overcame me again when I got back into the car again. The constant reminders of the finality of it all make it very difficult.
Stan’s ashes are in a nice oak casket, where they will stay. We have the ashes of all our other cats kept in the same way in similar caskets although Stan’s is much larger than the casket we go for out last cat, Luigi – maybe twice the size – for some reason. I sat him on my office desk when I got home, and then he stayed in the living room through the evening while my wife and I watched TV. Overnight he sat on my bedside table.
If I look at this behaviour with rational eyes, it seems strange. In normal circumstances I’m not a spiritual person, and I don’t really believe in an afterlife (although I don’t deny one might exist either). I very much like the idea of it being so, but my rational mind finds it difficult to accept, throwing all sorts of logical ifs-and-buts in the way of acceptance. I am envious of people who know in their hearts and minds that they will be reunited with their departed loved ones someday. This faith must be a great comfort.
But despite what my mind might say, at times like this the desire to believe is very strong. I really, really want it to be true, and in some way, making sure that Stan’s casket is with us, and not left alone while we are in other parts of the house feels important. It gives me genuine comfort to place my hand on the little wooden box as though somehow he is there. I also think I would feel more guilt if I didn’t have it close by. A sense that Stan might be looking on and would be saddened that I wasn’t keeping him near.
I know that, in time, this connection to the box will lessen, and eventually we’ll put him with the caskets of his brothers (who are now, slightly incongruously, sat on a shelf in the garage!), but by that time the box won’t have the same importance. He’ll be in our hearts and we’ll not need the physical reminder in the same way.
I read yesterday about how avoiding the term “moving on”, and instead talking about “moving forward” is beneficial when we are grieving. “Moving on” can imply a finality, that the thing we are griving for has been left behind, which can be a very painful suggestion when you are dealing with loss. “Moving forward” instead suggests that we are keeping things with us. The grief is still there, but our lives are growing around it, reducing the pain we feel as time passes. Now, I’m sure that this could be agued as a semantics question, with individual interpretation being what matters, but at this time I’ll take my comfort where I can find it. It reminds me a little of the line from the Marvel TV show, Wandavision: “But what is grief, if not love persevering?“
I think I’ve written more in the posts on my blog this week than I have for a very long time. The usual short posts attached to whatever photograph I have to share seem very flimsy in comparison with what I’ve written this week. While part of my writing about the loss of Stan is to celebrate his memory and express my love for him – along with the sadness, remorse, and guilt that are there too – another part is because this is therapeutic. I need to express myself openly to help me deal with what has happened and how I’m feeling as a result. Maybe someone else might find these posts when they are in a similar set of circumstances, and maybe my words might offer some insight and even comfort to them in the way that the experiences of others have been helping me.
As has become usual this week, I’ll close off with Stan himself. 🙂
2 thoughts on “Grief and belief and moving forward”
We were in such shock when our little pug Lucy died that there was no other way but to have her ashes. Growing up in the country, we always buried our pets back in the field and so the folks back home were pretty perplexed later on to hear about pet cremation. But we were so sad at the time she died, I always regret the boys didn’t hav ea chance to tell her goodbye like their mom and I did at the vet because of a snowstorm at the time that had made travel up the hill rather difficult (will never forget how sad I was to rest my hand on the solidness of her body, after she’d been deceased for a few hours), there was just no chance, no chance at all we were simply going to let her be carted off to an incinerator in some nondescript back alley. They told us what the options were and even the clinical use of the word “disposal” just about triggered me into a bawling heap. No way no how, I thought to myself. The idea of that was highly offensive and horrifying as we were still dumbfounded at not having her anymore. In general, our vet did a nice job telling us what we could do, they were very compassionate. We have this little ceramic vase that rests on a bookshelf. I dunno, we’ve thought fo sprinkling it in the backyard at some point, a makeshift memorial, maybe. “moving forward”. I like that.
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We’ve had all our cats cremated. I think it’s because, in some small way, we always know where they are when we have their ashes. The crematorium does offer a communal service where your pet’s ashes are then scattered in their garden of remembrance (which can be visited, but it’s in another town), but we’ve always chosen to have ours individually cremated and returned to us in a casket with a name-plate on the top. I never wanted to bury them as I always had the sad thought in my mind that, if we moved house (which we have done several times) then we would not be close to their resting place anymore, and also the thought that one day someone might uncover them, which would be awful.