Monday, September 13, 2021

Jake is home

I posted the photo above on my personal Facebook this afternoon after I got home from picking up Jakes ashes. As is so often the case, there’s a lot more to the story.

It begins at the beginning, oddly enough: The place rang me around 10:30 this morning to tell me Jake's cremains were ready. I was ready to head out shortly after lunchtime, but I realised I didn’t know the actual address so I could have Apple Maps guide me there (it’s a part of Hamilton I’m not familiar with). Apple Maps couldn’t find it. I Googled it and Google Maps could find me directions, and told me it would take me more than two hours to get there—until I realised it was set to give me walking directions. It was about 17 minutes by car.

Once I was ready to head out of the driveway, I realised that Google Maps was sending me toward a road that doesn’t exist (though it’s under construction, it won’t open until somewhere toward the middle of next year). I went the correct way, though I was worried this was a bad start.

As I got close, I found out that the road I was headed for was closed for construction (as so many are in that part of Hamilton). I missed my turn and it seamlessly directed me in a big loop back to the turn I missed. However, it turns out the road I missed was no more than a few hundred metres from my destination—a win.

I parked my car and rang them, as I had on Friday. There was no answer. I waited a few minutes and rang again. Same result. And also a few minutes later.

I moved my car out on the road and rang again. Nothing. I knew the place has a small staff, and I thought that if they were dealing with someone dropping off a furbaby, there might not be anyone to answer the phone. I completely understood that, and how some folks could have trouble leaving after bringing in their loved one.

However, that was the worst possible thing for me, that sitting here waiting. It made me picture Jake lying there when I dropped him off, and also remember leaving him there. Remembering such things is always a trigger for me, and sitting there like that, watching the front door to see if the person left, just prolonged the possibility that I might lose it.

Luckily, after waiting more than half an hour, I was annoyed, and that cancelled out the rest. Though I couldn’t be sure until I was back in the car with Jake.

I rang again and let it ring, and finally someone answered. I went to the door, she joined me, and I collected Jake. I had another stop to make, so I put is ashes in the boot of my car where I knew they’d be safe, and then left. A few metres down the road I stopped: I realised I was so anxious to get out of there that I hadn’t properly looked at what they handed me to make sure it was Jake. It was, and I continued on.

My next stop was the vet which had offered to give me credit for the medicine I bought for Jake only hours before he died. I tok a credit to use for future vet services. Meanwhile, I also had a large bag of Jake’s dog food that I’d never opened, and the pet store in the complex agreed to a refund (they don’t do store credit). Then, I got a harness for Leo so we can go on walks and I can secure him when we go in the car. That wasn’t smooth.

I’m still on a diuretic, and sometimes, with little warning, I have to go to the loo. Except, due to Covid restrictions, their loo was closed. I knew if I was there much longer I’d wet myself, but the very friendly and helpful clerk was explaining all the benefits of the various harnesses, then, when I picked one, she told me all the colours available—it would’ve been hilarious if it hadn’t been my pants that were about to get a big wet spot. When I sat back down in my car, I was much better.

Traffic was a bit heavy (school was out by then), but not too bad. I got home, gave Leo his welcome home treat, went to the loo, and then we sat down and I took the photo above. How I got to that point was a bigger deal than I’d expected, but there’s even more to it, a background to everything.

Nigel and I had all our late furbabies cremated and put into small cardboard boxes because we always planned to do something with them.

They all ended up in our buffet cabinet, and we often sadly joked about our “collection”. We talked about getting a big rimu box to put all those little boxes in, but we also talked about what, ultimately, should happen to them.

We weren’t going to scatter them because there was nowhere special enough to them or us. One time we even talked about which furbabies should go with whom when we died. Years passed.

In Nigel’s last few days at home, we talked anything and everything, as I’ve said many times. What to do with the furbabies’ ashes was one of those things.

“I want you to put the furbabies ashes in the box with me, and you can take Jake, Sunny, and Leo with you,” he said to me—and immediately interjected, “Unless you want to take Curzon!”

Curzon was the cat Nigel gave me for my 40th birthday, and he was my special boy: I was the only human he allowed to pick him up outside where the other cats might see. But he was also Nigel’s special boy: Every night when Nigel went to bed, Curzon would curl up beside him, Nigel’s arm wrapped around him. Then, when I went to bed, he’d move over and curl up against me. It was pretty magical for both of us.

“No, that’s okay—you can take Curzon,” I told him. I was happy that our beloved babies would be mixed with Nigel’s ashes—it felt like the perfect thing to do. Besides, I thought I’d have a long time with the other three, and they’d all live out their lives with me. I now completely understand that there are no guarantees whatsoever in life.

I’ll keep Jake and Sunny’s ashes right next to Nigel’s for now. Eventually I’ll put them all away, just not now, not yet. I’m not ready.

The bigger question is what will happen to Nigel’s and my own ashes. Nigel left that up to me, which is actually one of the biggest burdens I faced, even though I’m pretty sure I know what I’ll do (a topic for another day; some details aren’t settled yet).

My advice is to think thoroughly about what you want to happen with your mortal remains and write it down so no one has to guess. Still, since Nigel and I did talk about everything, I instinctively know what’s right, and what isn’t. I also know he completely trusted me to make the choice that was right for us both, me in particular.

Our furbabies never had to think about such things, of course, but they were always a part of our plans, just as much as they were a part of our lives. Working out what to do with their ashes and our own was just another, logical part of that.

Collecting Jake’s ashes was hard on me, and incredibly sad in what’s already a sad month for me. But I carry the strength of certainty that comes from having spent so many years talking about so much so often with Nigel. I have no confusion or uncertainty. So, sad, yes, but the truth is that I’m incredibly lucky to be so centred.

And all of that carried me through the entire day. I’ll take it.

This post includes revised and expanded parts of something I posted to my personal facebook this afternoon, and is also based on notes I wrote while waiting in my car.

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