Sadness, with a side of Humour
We'd been looking for Chloe for about a week. I came home to find my husband and mother-in-law in the backyard motioning for me to join them, their faces straight and arms around themselves. My heart sank. I knew right away there was bad news. As time passed it seemed the chances of her safe return were slim, but there was always hope. Wherever I came and went from home I was on the lookout for her, hoping to catch a glimpse of that tabby fur, or the white-tipped tail. We had made posters and put them all over the area, in local letter boxes, at the shops and the vet. Nothing.
"Did you find her?", I whisper with urgency as I close the door behind me, wanting this news before sharing with the kids. They nod. Tears fill my eyes as they explain she's been at the back of the garden a while, tucked right in under a bush. She'd been there some time, clearly having come home to die. With brave faces in place, we question and plan, replan and rethink, finally whispering agreement on how to deal with this. She'll need to be buried before we tell the kids.
As night fell, with Grandma reading to the three in bed, we two make our way into the garden to choose and site and get digging. It's not a pleasant task, and we doubt ourselves and each other at each part of the process. Should we bury her? What's the best place for this? Wrap her? Cover it? Just as we are "discussing" each aspect, shovels in hand by the light of a torch, it starts raining. First just a few drops, then a steady patter as our shovels fight into the heavy earth each time. Progress is slow, as we come across rocks, a drainage pipe laid long ago, and fighting the ever-resistant clay soil that is so great for gardens and so bad for grave digging. "This is impossible", he states. "Just keep going", I urge, slamming the shovel into the wet earth once more, urging him back into action. With a sigh, he turns and heads to the shed for a better tool, commenting once more on the overpowering odour that drew our attention to the last hiding place of our once-beautiful cat.
On his return, the light from the neighbours comes on and a voice calls, asking what's going on, he's heard a noise. We reassure him it's only us, we're sorry for the bother. His reply? "Sounds like someone's burying a body or something". There's a pause. We look at each in the torchlight, then back to where his voice is coming from. "Understood", he says, before we can get a word in. "You're all good." And with that, he's gone as quickly as he came, back into his side door, light off and lock clicked into place. We fight to stifle a fit of giggles, recognising how ridiculous this scene has become, while simultaneously being terrified of waking the kids who are asleep on the other side of the nearest wall. We gather ourselves and the strength we need to continue. After another small "sharing of opinions" about just how deep such things need be, we stand side by side in the still-falling rain, muddied and silent in our shared relief and sadness.
Telling the kids the following afternoon was no fun. Through the questions, tears and cuddles we decide to place some special items on her resting place and say a prayer. As we stood with arms around each other, wiping the tears from our cheeks, our sadness was once again stepped aside for a moment of laughter. Chloe's surviving sister, Katie, approached, and we express how she must miss her sister, and how she seems to know that Chloe is there. Katie proceeds to saunter onto her sister's grave, start pawing at the earth, and position herself in a squat...