“Who’s in the case?”
The case Aubry referred to was Aunt Do’s casket, closed (thank goodness) and resting atop a whatever the piece of furniture it is that caskets rest on. The blue casket (Aunt Do’s favorite color) was decorated with a shawl of lovely fresh cut flowers and pictures of her from throughout her lifetime.
“Aunt Do is in there, Honey. Well, her body is,” I said.
“Can you open it up?”
“Can someone else get it open, Mommy? I want to see her.”
Of course Aubry wanted to see her. I did not. “No. You can’t see her. Just remember her as she was.”
“Why is she in that case?”
Aubry wasn’t about to let it go. I began to explain general burial customs and was interrupted by the start of the service. Aubry sat on my lap, pondering why a dead body goes into a case. She understood more later when the casket was lowered into the ground at the gravesite.
“Oh, the case keeps her clean, Mommy. Right?”
“Yes, honey. Something like that.”
Aubry went over to check out the new digs. Aunt Do would have appreciated her great niece’s concerns.
It came too soon. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. He was healthy one day and critical the next. Our challenging, but incredibly loving and loyal yellow Labrador, Bronson, died from an autoimmune disease that came from nowhere and attacked his platelets with unchecked stealth. He was only eight. In some goofy way, perhaps because of his “bionic knee”, I felt we’d have him for years longer than we did. Not so.
The kids asked probing and thoughtful questions about how he got sick and what could be done for him. The vets were patient and kind, even sitting down with the kids on the floor for over an hour – a lesson in compassion, as if they had all the time in the world to attend to my kids’ efforts to make sense of this sad event.
But, in the end, the answer was that there was nothing that could be done do to save our much-loved dog. The kids laughingly recounted many memories of Bronson – stripping the siding from the house and eating the porch screens, sitting in flower pots, always destroying one half of a new pairs of shoes, consuming caseloads of food from the garage, chasing butterflies through the yard, bathing him, and going on walks. They sobbed with Mark and I as he slipped away, mercifully eased from his suffering by the medication given by the vet. It was peaceful, but we hadn’t been ready to let go.
Being home is the hardest. The energy is different. I expect to hear him barking when we have a visitor or when he wants to eat. I look for him to come running around my car to greet me as I pull up.
Out of habit, the kids start their day by calling to him – ready to play. They have been answered and greeted with silence.
It’s sinking in. Together we face his loss. He cannot be replaced, but he will be remembered and missed.