Monday, May 05, 2008

Ashes

There is a box I am afraid to open sitting on my mantlepiece.

It's been sitting there since late September, 2002.

This box has always seemed unusually heavy to me. The contents sigh as they shift about inside their cardboard tomb. An ignominious end to the life of one so loved.

The box is not very large at all, but it has loomed over me for these last 6 years. My cat - what is left of my cat - lays inside. All 8 pounds of her, whiskers, tumor, teeth and all. All of that fur. The remaining hairballs she didn't live to hork up onto the floor. Great big eyes of greenish yellow. A heart that only had room for me in it, but that managed to make a tiny amount of space for a husband and eventually a little baby girl.

Well, so long as those two remembered their manners. She was a very formal kitty, after all. Forever wearing her tuxedo, ready for a party at a moment's notice. She used to sit very upright, her long, luxurious tail daintily wrapped about her white-tipped paws; bright white cravat cleaned, with every hair (and there were many) in place.

She wasn't always so formal, my first kitty, she came from a humble beginning: a farm somewhere in eastern Massachusetts. My friend (and roomie), Steph, brought her home from a farm where my kitty and her brother were the last of the litter. She was all eyes and whiskers, a tiny puff of black fur. Eager to pounce on anything that moved, flew, scuttled or flicked.

Long years passed. A strange lump was found. A tumor. Chemotherapy followed and we eked out one more year together, although it was not a good year for her, it was time enough for me to learn to say goodbye. She died in my arms one late September day. Her ashes were returned to me in an unusually heavy box.

I never opened that box. I was afraid of what I might see inside. Would there be teeth?

Today, however, I finally found an appropriate home for the ashes of my kitty (and the two others that followed her: Dart, out of turn at 7 and Pixel well into his 17th year) and the box wouldn't fit in the bright red, lidded, cache pot that would be her final (and far more fitting) home. Steeling myself I opened the box, alone in my kitchen.

Oh.

Oh.

Well then.

There inside was a plastic bag and in the bag just grey, gritty dust. Just some ashes. Just Xerxes. No more, no less, but nothing untoward, if you know what I mean.

I placed that rude plastic bag into the elegant cache pot, added in the sealed containers that held her brothers and put the lid on the pot. Back on the mantlepiece it went where it sits in a place of honor, where my cats rest now in a fitting container.

There it sits, holding three cat-shaped pieces of my heart.

11 comments:

People in the Sun said...

You know, I was never a cat person, but I also wasn't a dog person until I found myself living with two Pit Bulls.

Which makes me understand what you mean. My dogs are old. Extremely old for pure breeds. And I'm scared.

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Well, I can tell you this: unless you have a LOT of money to throw around on life-extending surgeries and such, don't bother. We did, at that time, and got another year, but I don't think I did my kitty any favors.

I really think, if you and your SO are strong enough for it, that picking a date and going in for a shot at the vet's is a much more loving way of handling it. It's very very hard to put down a pet you love, but it's so much worse (I think) to have your last memory of them be marred by how awfully sick they were at the end.

That, however, is just me. Eric wouldn't let me put Pixel down when I wanted to, so it was the long, slow decline. That seemed worse.

Just remember that it's OK to grieve. All beings worth loving are worth grieving. I hope your dogs are unusually long-lived!

Green Bean said...

Ohh. I know how you feel. Mine is 15 and remarkably spry still. He even tolerates two wild boys. He is getting older though and the time will eventually come. I'm glad you found a good place for yours.

Jennifer H said...

This may sounds really macabre, but I remember how surprised I was by the weight when I held the box with my grandmother's ashes in it.

This was a lovely tribute to your pet(s). It is obvious how much you loved her. And it sounds like you've given an elegant cat an elegant place in your home.

alessa said...

Sniff, sniff. Reference my "Decade" poem...sniff, sniff with pouty lower lip.

Scylla said...

I still have my kitty's ashes in a little metal tin in my Side Board. I need to find a special place for him.

My problem is he liked to be outside, but he loved to sleep on my pillow. Where can a person find a place where you can be outside on a soft pillow without dumping his ashes on my lawn furniture?

Valerie said...

I haven't brought myself to pick up Ozzie's ashes from the vet yet. They are there, the cremation is paid for but I just never seem to get a round to it...

Woman with a Hatchet said...

GB: Thanks!

Jennifer: Not macabre. I held my grandmother's ashes too. That container seemed HUGE and filled with lead. It's kind of like how handguns feel unusually heavy, too.

Weird. I'm so weird.

Alessa: Yup. Double chest tap. Word!

Misty: Only you could make me smile over this. You goofball! Pour the kitty INTO the lawn furniture! Then you can tell people that seat is haunted. Awesome story! The Bloggess would approve, I think.

Val: Send Ed. What are husband's for?! Delegate!

People in the Sun said...

Thanks. For now, I just go downstairs and watch TV with them every once in a while. As long we're together they're happy.

Janice said...

This post made me sob. I lost my beloved Sam almost two years ago, one month after I brought my boys home from the hospital. He was my first love, my first pet as an adult. He loved only me, and tolerated my husband. He was my baby for 17 years. I still miss him almost everyday, and I have not been able to get a new pet. Sam still sits on my desk, with his best friend "yellow bear"

Woman with a Hatchet said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Janice.

Hang in there. One day, you may yet decide the time is right to have another. Pets teach us many things, most of all that we have plenty of love to give.

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