Yesterday I collected the ashes of my darling Mr Claude.
I chose to have him cremated following his death, partly as I am not very good at digging holes deep enough to bury him securely. I certainly was not up to the task myself, the day of his death!
Claude's ashes will serve to fertilise a new magnolia I am planting, a lovely ornamental addition to my garden.
It was weird, going in to the vets to collect an animal I loved in this new and very final form. Yet nonetheless his ashes were returned to me packed in a box labelled "Claude Ludbrook", contained inside a white tulip covered bag that read "special friends".
On picking up this sad little bag, that offered only superficial comfort, I noted Claude was even lighter than in his final months of life. It was a surreal experience.
I went to pop it in the boot of my car, like any other bag, but thought better of it and sat the bag on the passenger's seat, where Claude had always travelled, beside me, in his cat carrier!
This time there was no cat carrier, just a bag albiet a pretty one, almost like a present!
As yet I have been unable to open the cardboard box, to see if there is a tin, or vessel within, given I opted not to go through the catalogue of containers available, choosing, like my parents, the cheapest option, for funeral arrangements. This is not a sign of disrespect, rather, pragmatic practicallity. Grief cannot be measured in monetary forms.
Claude's ashes are currently on a chair in the kitchen, still in the bag.
I am planning a little memorial service for him, to help with my own grief, to which I will invite our mutual friends. That is when we will plant the shrub that will mark our life together.
Then again, if I ever move I cannot take this shrub with me. Am I better to scatter his ashes at the same wonderful, uplifting public place my parents chose for their remains?
I shall ponder this a while and choose what is right for me. Perhaps I will place a little of his ashes under the tree, and scatter the bulk where I later intend being scattered myself?
My father took the best part of a year, before he found the strength to scatter my mother's ashes in the appointed spot. Meanwhile he misplaced them, having moved them from one place to another over that period. On the day he spontaeniously decided he was ready to lay her to rest, we had to search for the container. First, we found the ashes of our dog, who died a mere fortnight after my mother. However, my mum's ashes were in a bigger container and weighed considerably more, than those of dear Max.
We did both eventually see the funny side of the misplaced ashes after we found them and were reminded of the episode of 'Mother and Son', where the mother's handbag, containing her late husband's ashes gets stolen. Humour is a real tonic to grief!
I found it interesting that my dad chose to wait for such a length of time before he was ready to scatter the final remains of my mum. Only now, following the death of my beloved moggy does the depth of his bewilderment make sense to me. Grief runs its own course and you move through it, in your own time. For me too, at present, things are in slow motion.
Having Claude die in my arms and his subsequent absence in my life, after almost nineteen years, made his death very real and life changing for me. His ashes are a consequence of his passing. I will deal with their final resting place when I am a little stronger.
Options that parallel those for human passing exist for dealing with the remains and memorials to our beloved pets after their death. Everything from the low budget, to extraordinarily elaborate extravagances to mark their life.
An excellent pet cemetery and crematorium 'Bamganie' is operating at Lethbridge, serving both Geelong and Ballarat's pets and their bereaved humans. They will even conduct a funeral ceremony should you so require it. Cremation of a pet is not a cheap exercise, but it does give you a bit more time to determine their final resting place.
It is a pet-loving family owned and run business and they gaurantee the individual cremation of your pet and that your pets ashes will be returned to you.
My horse, and several of our family dogs have "passed through" the Bamganie Pet Crematorium" and now, so too my Mr Claude. Indeed, the service is utilised and recommended by Ballarat/Wendouree Vetinary Practice, along with its Equine Clinic.
I am very grateful, that our vet offered this service. It was a genuine comfort to know my beloved Claude's physical remains would be cremated, with professional care and expertise. I want nothing less for myself, when the time comes!
Some people choose to keep the ashes of those they have loved with them, pets included, on their mantel piece or some place of significance. Personally I can think of nothing worse. I want my own ashes to be liberated beyond my own life, in a place that I loved that continues to be full of life and joy.
The bag and box that currently sits in my kitchen is far removed from the live "purry furry one" I loved and who shared my life. He has truly passed on.
Returned to dust.
Meanwhile memories linger and Claude will remain part of my lfe, for as long as I live!
Fiona Ludbrook is the Client Services Director of Pets and Plants Ballarat. Now, entrepreneur and blogger, she was born and bred in Ballarat, but spent many years as a teacher in Melbourne’s