I collected Moosifer's remains from the vet's just about two weeks ago.
It's not been a particularly wonderful fortnight. What really hits home is arriving back each night and being aware that there is no other life force in my home. Usually, come 5pm Moosifer would be sat on the arm of the sofa and would greet me with an immediate demand for a fuss and his food. If I came home early for whatever reason, he would either ignore me or look peeved that I was back and interupting his terribly important sleep/wash/stare-at-something-invisible routines.
I was totally terrified of collecting his ashes. Not due to the "he's really gone" element, but because I didn't know how one went about asking for them. And what if the waiting room were full of people worried over their own pets? How would they feel if someone came in to collect the remains of an animal? Luckily the place was empty, so I was able to whisper "I've come to collect the remains of my cat" to the receptionist.
"Remains". It's such a euphemistic word, containing so much meaning. It always suggests to me "that which has been left behind". Yet I'm not religious: not in a "pet heaven" way. It just seems to fit as the last image I have of my boy is of his body lying on my old burgundy jumper and though he looked asleep, looked happy, he was so clearly 'gone'. Something was missing. So I found myself asking for his "remains", using the terminology that disguises what is really happening.
I'd asked for a cremation. I've been developing a slight shudder at the idea of animal renevants. Obviously, living with a hunting cat meant a certain amount of familiarity with handing animal corpses. There was the time he woke me by playing with a very large dead mouse on the rug in the bedroom. And the pigeon corpse in the kitchen a mere two months back. As a child I used to bury any baby birds that died after falling out of their nests: that involved household matchboxes as coffins and a spot near the laburnum tree. Yet in the summer I accidentally killed a frog (a real beauty as well) and, after burying it with full honours for its slug-eating skills, developed a mild irrational conviction that it would come back to haunt me. Plus, I garden. I know what becomes of organic matter that is buried and I could not do that to my boy, even if it does break the circle. I couldn't, still can't, bear the idea of my boy beneath the earth. So cremation it had to be.
I spent the afternoon after collecting him hunting for a perfect larger box. I found an Indian one, with a beaten metal trim. When I got home, I laid the other sweater from his bed in the bottom, then a pillbox with some fur and an old claw sheath, his favourite bootlace and his favourite toy mouse. Well, his favourite bit of string that happened to be tied to the tail of a toy mouse really. Then the container with the ashes. It's all set to one side in my room now, so that there is a space, almost the same size as he was, which is the remains. That which is left.
In a year, I'll be getting new boy(s). Rescue cats again. Kittens are utterly adorable but I live too close to a road to have cute little idiots living here. Especially cute little curious idiots.