The Animal Hospital where we took Bailey called a couple weeks ago to let us know that her ashes were ready to pick up. I told them I'd be there the next day and I realized later that was a lie. My heart felt heavy when I heard their words. I didn't feel ready to bring her back home because I knew I wasn't really bringing her home. She's gone.
So I waited. And each day I drove by that place where I left a piece of my heart, I felt heavier and heavier. So I started taking a different route to and from Finnegan's school. If I took a different road, I could try to forget that place and what we did there. I could try to push away that sadness.
But the thing is, I couldn't. I can't. I feel that sadness every day. When I see another Boston Terrier. When the girls call for their Bailey and are confused when we tell them she is gone and can't come back, not ever. When Finnegan tells me he thinks Maxie is lonely and needs a friend again.
I forced myself to drive by that place yesterday and before I could think twice, I put my blinker on and turned left into their parking lot. I parked the car in the loading zone and walked through the doors and saw all the faces who had seen our sadness. A girl smiled brightly at me and I felt shock when I realized she didn't remember me. She asked if she could help me and I sputtered out my words, that I was here to pick up Bailey, and I saw her face flash with recognition. "Oh. Let me get her for you."
She turned to a shelf behind her for a moment and then turned back with a small package in a blue velvet bag and a certificate. I felt myself hesitate to take it from her, but then I reached out preparing myself for the weight of my Bailey.
It's funny how your brain prepares you for tasks. There are certain things we do from memory. Our muscles know... recognize how much strength we need to lift familiar items.
I was shocked by how light the package she handed me was in my hands. I'd expected that familiar weight that was always a comfort in my arms, sitting in my lap, leaning deliberately against my legs letting me know she was there and wanted attention.
This box felt weightless.
Suddenly I felt even heavier.
When I got to the car, I looked at the certificate. It's all very official. It states who her family was and on what date she was cremated. I am sure this is an important document for records or whatever, but I imagine it's also there for people to see in black and white.
This is your loved one. They are gone. The box is light, but it's really them.
I drove home and carried the box in and gently placed it high on a shelf. Out of reach from little hands. And out of reach from me too. I don't know what we're supposed to do with her now. I'm not good at any of this.