The house has felt empty since Wink was put to sleep. I made the decision to have her cremated so that I could hold her memory in an urn in my home. I knew that at some point during the next week or so the phone would ring and I’d be notified her cremains are waiting for me at the vet’s office.
On Tuesday, that happened.
The next day, I went back and forth trying to determine when I would go pick up her cremains [this is the correct term for cremated remains, often called ashes], and today, I decided it was time. I made a plan (take public transportation to the park, and then enjoy a walk through the neighborhood to the Vet). There was something comforting about the idea of having her cremains and being able to bring my Wink back home.
I walked into the lobby of the vet and waited my turn to be greeted. It’s just after 11 in the morning, and little worried pets surrounded me, along with their concerned parents… I studied the bulletin board full of community pet-related activities and looked at the collection of photos until it was my turn at the desk:
“I’m here to pick up Wink.”
“Wink?” A look of confusion…
“Yes. Wink’s ashes.” A moment of silence happened here where she processed the fact that I was picking up the remains of my dead pet…
“Oh. Just a minute.”
She went to the back and returned a few minutes later with a little wood box and a small heart shaped ornament. The ornament had Wink’s paw print, and her name stamped on it. These items were placed in front of me.
As I looked at the box and this little ornament (which she was now explaining to me) I asked “are the cremains in a bag inside the box?” She said she thought so, but hadn’t ever opened one of these boxes before. “Let’s do it” I said… and we proceeded to unhook the latch and lift the lid.
Inside was a small clear plastic bag filled with ashes and a little piece of paper that said: Name: Claude
“Claude”, not “Wink”. Confused.
“Who is Claude?” I asked.
She glanced at the little note, gently closed the box, and said “I’ll be right back.” A few minutes later, she returned, explaining to me that Wink’s cremains were returned to the facility so that they could correct the spelling of my name on the box. After apologizing for the mix-up, she let me know that they’d be in touch in the next day or so to let me know when they were ready to pick up.
Now, I realize mistakes happen, and that things can be mixed up. I also know that this will get sorted out. The people who provide these services are obviously careful with the remains (exemplified by the name of the pet being included in the bag), and in time it’ll get sorted out.
What I don’t understand is why someone didn’t call to tell me there was going to be a delay in my being able to pick up the cremains because a mistake had been made in the spelling of my name. The service I ordered was a private cremation (which results in the delivery of your own pet’s cremains), and the encounter left me confused and unsure of what pet’s cremains will find their way home with me. I just have to believe that my name really was spelled wrong on the box, and that it’s a simple mix-up that will be easily resolved. I did a little research and found that the pet cemetery allows in-person cremation, meaning the actual cremation can be attended. Now this might be a bit morbid, but it seems to me the only way to be 100% certain that the cremains you get are of your beloved pet.
But beyond the mix-up and sadness and shock of losing her, I know that Wink had an incredibly wonderful life and gave so much love and laughter to me and my family. I was able to be with her in her last moments, and was able to hold her paw, kiss her head, and tell her goodbye in the very moment she passed.
Do I miss Wink? Yes. Every second. My heart breaks knowing she’s gone. But as time moves forward, I find myself smiling; knowing that she shared 9 love-filled years with me. I’m lucky to have had her in my life and the cremains that I receive (eventually) will take residence in the urn that will be used to remember and honor her life.