She had a ball the last time she came to Hawkes Bay with us. We camped in the bush, swam in rivers and cooked meals on a hot plate on the ground. With entertainment and food supply so accessible, this appeared to be her best holiday ever. I’m only surmising here. Naturally, Bella didn’t actually tell me this, but I had a pretty good hunch.
Sadly, Bella passed away last April and I didn’t think there was anything strange this year about taking her back to the place she loved the most. But then I don’t think it’s strange to take a loved one’s ashes with you on a road trip, either, so I’m probably not the one to ask.
I’ll agree that not everyone was comfortable with my decision. My brother-in-law thought it was pretty weird having Bella’s ashes around, but he is English, and an accountant. Perhaps he thought she was a free-loader and should have contributed to accommodation costs.
There was pretty much a 50/50 split of opinion on the saneness or otherwise of the dearly departed being kept close to the living, usually as ashes in little white boxes. In the past I too thought keeping the physical remains of a deceased one close by was just a little spooky, but at that stage I hadn’t grieved for a much-loved pet.
A few years ago I visited a house where the owner kept the ashes of her two dead cats on the bedside table. I remember thinking that would be too close for my comfort. And my boss has kept the ashes of three beloved family members (one human, two not), on display and within earshot around her home.
Her father-in-law’s ashes resided on top of the fridge for one year before he was
scattered among the flowers at Eden Gardens. (This was by arrangement of course; you can’t just turn up on a whim and scatter the deceased amongst the daisies.) Her cat and dog, who were keen adversaries during their living lifetime, now sit comfortably together on the top of the bookshelf.
Finding a happy resting place for her dog has been challenging. The reserve where he used to run and chase rabbits is now a subdivision, so this sensitive owner is seeking a friendly farmer down south who’ll let her scatter the dog’s ashes over a rolling green hillside ideal for rabbit chasing of the spiritual kind.
She knows the cat will be happy in the back garden but simply hasn’t got around to arranging the ceremony and admits she likes chatting to her pets as she passes the bookshelf during the course of the day.
And then there’s the elderly mother who wants her daughter and a friend to take her casket on a long road trip to her desired resting place, when she has “passed over.” The three involved don’t think there’s anything strange about this at all, but two spouses think the trio are stark raving mad.
Yes, this is a story about letting go, or rather not being able to. But I like to think I’ll be missed when I’ve popped my cork. Wouldn’t it be awful if we were placed in the ground, farewelled with a cup of tea and a cucumber sandwich, and then forgotten soon after?