A couple of weeks ago, I was at my father's house when I received a most distressing phone call from our youngest daughter. I could hear our middle child screaming in the background while the baby alternated between crying hysterically and laughing maniacally at her sister's dramatics. I couldn't even comprehend what was going on as I listened to the melee that screeched at me over my spotty cellular connection.
Just like most parents or guardians, my first thought was that one was gushing blood from a ragged wound caused by a crazy idea that the other that had.
Or, maybe one was screaming like a banshee because the other had the audacity to share the atmosphere with them.
Either scenario would have been entirely plausible.
It took a few moments before I could finally get both of them to calm down enough to tell me what was happening. It was exhausting. My ear hurt too.
The baby had discovered that her beloved hamster, Vanilla Sugar, had passed away. It's tiny body was already icy cold, its flesh stiff with rigor mortis. By my extremely weak forensic skills, I calculated that it had likely crossed over the rodent rainbow (the kind in an oil slick perhaps?) sometime the night before.
The youngest was screaming and laughing because although she was distraught at the loss of her beloved pet, she was also delighted by her sister's over the top theatrics of disgust.
I soothed the baby and was firm with the teen. With the promise of a proper funeral and burial, I was able to get off the phone. I wasn't sure if that would be the end of it though. I was sure that I would continue to receive several calls over the two to three hours I would be gone.
Upon our arrival home, I found a small box that was the perfect size for Vanilla. It was also easier to bury than the giant boot box that was initially selected for resting in peace . My husband dug a tiny grave on the side of our home next to the fence while our daughter handcrafted a lovely tombstone.
Watching the two at work for our most solemn occasion, I was reminded of the stray I once adopted that I named "PC" after Stephen King's novel, Pet Sematary. I know. It should have been PS but PC was grammatically correct. He was a gorgeous grey and black tabby with a horrifically damaged eye. He would peer up at me and talk about all the things in the loudest, scratchiest, kitty voice I have ever heard. He was a bit frightening to see and hear but he was a gentle love bug. I adored him in all his terrifying visage. He and my other beloved feline, Trach, met their deaths at the hands of a sadistic neighbor. That fucking weirdo had a penchant for killing animals that weren't even in his yard. I will never forgive him. I hope he is rotting in hell and that my devil cats repeatedly claw the tender flesh between his fingers and toes.
I was also reminded of our first pet funeral with our two oldest children.
Our son's cat, Frankie, was a little too exuberant when welcoming me home in the driveway one afternoon and I heard the sickening crunch beneath my slow rolling tires. It has been years and I still feel like shit for being the cause of his untimely demise. He was the first pet I had ever rushed to an emergency veterinarian only to make the gut wrenching decision to euthanize rather than proceed with costly surgeries and treatments that were in no way guaranteed to save him. His little body was still warm when they handed him to me, wrapped in cloth and plastic. I couldn't see him but I could feel him. His beautiful life slowly escaped through the fabric into the ever after.
The next day, the sun beat down unrelentingly as it eked its way across the sky. The brightness was blinding and the shadows were scarce as my husband, in his first official duty as the family grave digger, dumped the clay hardened dirt to the side to prepare the space for Frankie's last rites. Being Louisiana, the heat was brutal as we lovingly stood in a circle around his grave. I remember the sky being the most vivid shade of cerulean with not a single cloud to offer a modicum of shade. Something was off. The grass was too green. The sky was too blue. The sun was too bright. Shouldn't this be a grey occasion?
Frankie was our son's beloved pet. His stoicism was slightly broken by a well of tears that threatened to spill over to his cheeks at any moment. Our daughter, the now teenager, was too young to truly understand what was happening. To her three year old mind, Frankie was simply going bye-bye and we simply needed to wave him off. I suppose that in a way, she was right. He was going on the ultimate trip. The one that we all will travel one day.
We took turns speaking over his body that seemed impossibly tiny inside that huge earthen hole. We shared our fond memories and spoke of how he was a wonderful kitty who was good to his boy and even better to his brother, Lexi. When we were done speaking, I asked if we should sing a song. Our daughter kindly obliged in the music selection.
The four of us solemnly sang for Frankie, in our best voices, the Alphabet Song.
A, b, c, d, e, f, g, (god, this was weird,) h, i, j, k, lmnop (please don't laugh S.B.!) q, r, s, (sorry Frankie, it is all she knows) t, u, v, (verily shall you go faithfully into the great beyond) w, x, y and z...now I know my abc's. Next time won't you sing with me.
This was the strangest funeral I have ever attended. That moment in time was one of the most surreal situations I have ever had the pleasure of partaking. The visual of a family singing a preschool song in their mourning has the tint of horror and bizarre that appeals to my entire nature. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
Frankie would have been proud of his sister's song choice. As I said, he was an incredible kitty.
Vanilla received no such fanfare but she did get the best blooms from our flower gardens. She also got a a grave marker, something we did not do for Frankie. I wonder if the owners of our old house have found him yet?