She’s back. I collected her ashes on Tuesday. It’s nice to have her here with me, sitting on my desk as usual. Yes, it’s a tiny bit morbid and I’m working on it, but I think my shrink is almost as upset about Simone as I am. Both of us are going to need a little more time to adjust.
I’d been planning on keeping her ashes in a ceramic cat urn I’ve had for years (What? Don’t act like you don’t decorate your house with empty urns, too). I was an anxious mess before heading to the vet. I kept asking Rocco questions he couldn’t answer. “What’s she in now? What if it’s a bag and I rip it? Do I take the urn with me?” I think the urn plans have changed, however.
I walked into the waiting room and patiently waited my turn. “How can I help you?” the nice girl asked from behind the counter.
“I’m here to pick up my cat,” I replied. What else do you say? The girl looked a little confused, her eyes darted to the other gal behind the counter…then again I was having trouble seeing around all the tears welling up in my eyes.
“…from the hospital?” the first girl asked.
“No, well, she was my cat,” I stammered. “Not that she’s not still my cat. I got a call today. I’m here for her…ashes.”
Then the recognition dawned on their faces. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” was practically chanted by the pair in unison. The phrase echoed off the hard gray walls as the girls rummaged through paperwork. “What’s her name?”
“Simone,” I answered, somehow managing not to start sobbing again.
“Lonon,” the other girl whispered without looking at the sheet. Why this comforted me, I don’t know. I only know that it did.
I don’t know what I was expecting. My grandmother still sits in a small cardboard box wrapped inside a bread bag in the back of a closet. That was the only experience I’d had with cremains up until that point. I kept chanting in my head that it really didn’t matter what she was in at the moment. Soon she’d be nestled safely in her beautiful jar at home.
They pulled out a small white paper bag from beneath the desk and set it lightly on the counter. “Can you sign here?” I followed her finger and scratched my name in the ratty spiral bound notebook. Sighing, I slipped my fingers through the thin braided handles of the bag. I couldn’t stop looking at it.
The bag was such a strange mixture of sterility and celebration. The white paper was so bright it seemed to reflect the fluorescent lighting fixtures above our heads. It was completely devoid of smudges, rips or wrinkles. Pristine. Sterile. But the shape was all celebration. It’s the style of bag they use at boutique jewelry shops or that mothers of the bride use to contain shower goody bags.
I half expected to see some sort of brightly colored tissue paper hiding inside when I peeked down into the bag. But no, there was only Simone inside an intricately carved wooden box. I gasped in surprise. “She’s beautiful, thank you,” I mumbled before gulping down another sob.
After returning home, I took her out of the bag and sat with her at my desk. The wooden box is surprisingly fitting – it’s warmer and softer than the ceramic urn somehow. I find incredible comfort running my fingers over the carvings; almost like I’m rubbing her face and I can feel the hard edge of her canine tooth amidst the soft fur. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it lately, but I miss her.
I sat with the box on my chest for a while, comforted by the familiar weight. I lowered my head, pressing my lips to the smooth surface and inhaled deeply. I guess I was hoping some of her maple syrup-ness might seep through the wood somehow, but no. The wooden box smells only like a wooden box. I think she’s creeping around here somewhere though. Since I brought the box home, I keep catching traces of that smell in the strangest of places. Call it creepy, morbid, or what you might like, but it feels good to have her back home.
So in the wooden box she’ll stay. My kitty urns will continue to exist only as decorations. Besides, I was a little nervous about getting her into the urn. I’ve never been known for my coordination or dexterity. No one wants to spend eternity whirring around inside a vacuum cleaner, least of all a cat. Better to leave her safely sealed in this beautiful box until I can finally get her that back yard she always wanted.