I woke up today to see my boy was back, sitting in a fancy red paper bag up on the dresser across from my bed.
I recall sucking my breath in at the sight and thinking of the rage I was driven into by what the receptionist, an extremely rude, thoughtless girl of perhaps 17-20 years old, told me about the "beautiful presentation" which she ordered me "not to worry about" because cardboard boxes and plastic bags are always the most respectful way to memorialize your loved one's life, are they not?
This was five minutes after the vet tech took his body away - which was only seconds before the same ridiculous girl burst into the room, saw me crying, shouted "Oh!!!" at the top of her lungs and almost made me jump out of my chair. Once she collected herself (she acted like she'd seen a ghost, so this took her a few seconds) and without a drop of sympathy in her way-too-cheerful voice, she said I ought to go pay for Stuie's services "right now" and "just get it over with" (which was probably her making a lot of assumptions about my ability and willingness to pay, or she wouldn't be trying to rush me, which was another extremely angering thing to have to deal with at that moment).
Would you be driven into a nearly homicidal rage by her words, timing and actions? God forgive me, I know I was.
The only thing...the only thing...that stopped me from totally losing my mind, that kept me quiet and my reactions rather slow and blunted, was realizing she's still young and was proving it through her words and actions, proving she knows nothing of life, nor death, nor grief. I've had to jump this damned turnstile so many times; she's apparently never had to jump it at all. Because if she had, she'd know how to act, and it would not be the way she acted.
On top of that she's probably not trained well (perhaps not at all). So even while I was in a rage, I had to force myself to understand her situation and forgive her for how she was making me feel. But it was hard. I was in shock now, in addition to all the grief and misery. But I had to think of her, of what she can't know, what I wouldn't really want her to know if it was up to me.
That aside, my stomach was in knots today as soon as I saw the bag over what she told me moments after he died about how he was coming back. Maternal guilt: I want the best for him, but box in a bag or bag in a box was all I was getting and I knew it and even as I poured my first cup of coffee and went back in the room to be with him it was making me sick.
After more coffee and crying, I opened the bag and peered inside it to see a small rectangular box wrapped in a thin layer of white tissue. I felt my blood rise, pulled the accompanying leaflets and booklets out and walked away from the box before I could get even more upset. The papers included a small book full of grief counseling tips, with a few pages I found helpful - or at least sort of comforting.
At the end was a poem about the Rainbow Bridge. I never knew what it was so I decided to find out. The last few lines tore me up because they're part of the grief of having lost someone - that is, wondering if you'll ever see them again. The poem speaks to that and offers a way to envision it, instead of treating the topic like it doesn't exist or matter.
Yes, it does exist and it does matter. A lot.
Anyway, I'm moving again (the house I'm in is nice enough, but having housemates is so unmanageable that I'll be joyously wandering off soon to live without them); because of that my room is stuffed with all the things I'll need to pack shortly, so it's not like I looked around today and saw a lot of room for Stuie's...bag. I got so upset at having to put his bag up after reading the grief book, I couldn't go through with it.
Finally I made room on a wooden shelf next to the TV and nestled him up on that. A truly awful place to put him, but until I get situated elsewhere there is nothing better. Once the bag was up, I just looked at it for a while. Finally, morbid curiosity took over: I had to know what was in the bag. I put the bag back up on the dresser. I took the box out of the bag. I undid the tissue around the box.
The box was not made out of cardboard.
The box is made of strong, heavy cherry with a nice hasp on the front. Inside, along with the keys, were his ashes inside of a black velvet bag with a golden pull-string; inside of that was a heavy plastic bag sealed with a rubberband, with a dog tag around that with the name of the crematorium on it. Through my tears, I began to smile.
Outside of the innermost bag (because I want it airtight - but we have a vacuum sealer, so I might just go ahead and take care of that myself) it was a beautiful presentation, after all.
After putting it all back together and putting the amazingly not-cardboard box back up on the shelf, I spent another half hour deciding if I should file a complaint on the receptionist and how - should I call the vet? The girl in question will answer the phone. Write a longhand letter? I'm sure she gets all their mail.
Even assuming I could route the letter directly to the vet and be assured by somebody that she won't be allowed to open it, it would take so much time and energy to write, and I'm not trying to make her lose her job, so I hesitate to complain. Ideally I'd only want her to be retrained, for them to show her how to do Human Being correctly around other suffering, much more unhappy human beings.
And for them to make her describe the box correctly so people don't think she's pulling a fast one by telling them not to worry (which is an obnoxious and rather trying way to put it - of course I'm going to worry!) as it's such a "beautiful presentation" when what she was describing is as ghetto as you can get outside of them dumping his ashes on the floor and making me sweep them up myself.
Anyway, it's done, and thankfully it was a beautiful presentation, in spite of how she put it.