Our beloved Ruby passed away on 9/23/15...this is about her death and cremation day.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

(((This turned into an essay of sorts about Ruby's cremation day (a word i hated when it came to being associated with her) and its about her essence of course..written not of sound mind perhaps, but there's beauty in the story and i needed to tell it quick...thank you all so much for your kindness and love))))))
Well, first morning with out her. (Now it's afternoon) ....I was saying to a friend, "its quantum"...a silence that's turned in on itself....our parrot Grub is calling her name, "Ruby, Ruby!". Whistling the dog call whistle he does so well," Pspsstphhw"."Come here, girl!" But still it feels silent and vacuous...Even with our other dog Zinka nipping and gnawing as she does in the morning first thing -even with her nails on the wood floor and her barking at the mailman...I'm not hearing Ruby's waking routine--her clamoring for a walk, busting open the bathroom door, poking her head through...her circling three times on her bed before she plunks down with either a thud or a gentle curl. Ahhh, this void. Brutal. Then there's what my friend, who just lost her dog said to me in a sweet consoling email-the question of "what do you do with all that love?" That's the thing.....I guess, you lean in harder, punch and rip the substrate even more people harder for all the sorrow you know they feel too...I guess that's all we can do...I know, you know, we all must know this- even before we get there with whichever supreme loss we know will inevitably happen and that we must endure....but its a knowing that's ineffable and changes shape before you can etch it out with any words or actions. So without the proper words, ill just say, I guess I actually don't know you know, or I know....but we "do" instead, letting our actions speak for us in these times, no matter how fumbled they may seem. Every thing I reach for, touch, look at, contains a split second of me thinking she is here still in the house, then I get that harsh burst of reality..muscle memory...she is embedded in every pain, ache, and bug bite I'm scratching today-I got these bites when she was smiling and sitting at the park the other day- so engaged and happy.. I'm still trying to wake up...trying to get in the mode to write, cause there's so much I want to say about her-if i loved her boundlessly for 15 1/2 yrs, I love her even more now...didn't think this was possible! .I had said yesterday in my post that I was " terrified of living in a Rubyless world"...But I knew the truth that Ruby was always in everything already-she is why I reached and loved harder then I thought was possible for a broken soul like myself...She made me less base...more tender....every tree top, every blade of grass, every thing that traces an outline of anything else-she seemed to be present in -and this changed me and the way I saw the world...My heart today feels like its been pummeled by a million tiny hammers made of feathers, and my heart knows better then before that it has a job to do......and Ruby led me to this knowingness from the moment I cupped her beating heart in my palm and felt it stop.......

     Yesterday morning started with a long drive at dawn through the country where we were able to attend her cremation...the man gave me directions the night before that clearly and intentionally brought us on the scenic route (this we realized when we returned home as the highway was right there) He said "I find people end up elsewhere if they use GPS"...I feel after meeting this man, that what he meant by "elsewhere" was a metaphor...He wanted us to be present for the beautiful drive ...not "elsewhere" GPS would have led us to the highway and we'd have missed the stunning entry to his world...That drive,her last, was part of the whole experience-of the letting go..(We don't use GPS,and i don't even drive!...but he didn't know this!)...I had seen commercials all these years for this animal cemetery/crematory called "Loving Rest Pet Cemetery" and I always cried when it came on....I never thought in a million yrs however I'd seek this particular place out for the same reasons most of you wouldn' t(it always made me think of the Eroll Morris film doc called "Gates Of Heaven")....But I knew all these yrs that when I thought of her death it really concerned me that I wouldn't know what was going to happen to her body once I gave it up to whomever (vet etc) for her to be cremated-for me this matters. And I knew when I lived in Seattle in particular, burial wasn't an option. I'm old school. When my grandmother died at home (she lived with us) she remained in state her last night and my mom tenderly sponged her and changed her nightgown before the undertakers took her away on a snowy February morning...(our old dog, that had become inseparable from her, died a few days later) So I guess its instilled in me, to not have your loved one whisked away before you can say goodbye on your own terms and take care of them one last time...In a perfect world maybe you'd have 48 hours, like some other cultures do.

   I didn't want to bury her here in Iowa since we may not be staying here much longer.... A while back a friend had told me she brought her dog and placed it inside the refrigerator at the place he was to be cremated...this was a start, i remember thinking.....I felt like "ok",: "ill at least do that, when the time comes"...wrap her up in a blanket like my friend did- and put a picture of her in her best years to show the attendants that she was loved,( as my friend did) I was extremely touched by this story....Nothing against anyone else's choices, as its not always possible to avoid, and we all have different needs and outlooks on this sort of thing, but I didn't want Ruby in a fridge...for me, that was harder to stomach then the flames themselves.

  As anyone with an old dog knows, you have many scares...we had mast cell cancer surgery, lumps and bumps on both ends removed,allergies(Ruby would for years allow me to put all 4 legs at once in little bowls, to soak her paws that used to get infected with yeast and excessive licking)...then 8 moths ago the seizures came, in one 24 hour bout-and we were told this would be the end...The ER vet said, "one month tops" (hell, he wanted us to put her to sleep that very night!). Well in typical Ruby fashion, she bounced back a week later and became very vibrant-almost more so then pre- seizure(b12!) and the seizures never returned...But in that short window, when we weren't sure if she would make it, I did some research and got prepared for the inevitable... What are the odds, my vet uses this place from the TV commercial for their cremations...So I called to ask if I could deliver her myself at least. When they said I could, I felt elated I may have bypassed the need for her to be placed in the fridge....then I asked if I can attend. "Yes" they said. Jackpot! lastly, I asked, "can she be cremated alone"? "Yes". Relief. I knew I at least had that part of the equation prepared and felt a bit less anxiety...I wouldn't have to worry any longer about some complacent glue huffer handling my beloved Ruby..How it was going to go down in terms of her death, was anybody's guess at the time,and this of course has always caused me major anxiety and of course great sorrow. So, I feel blessed and astonished at how it ended. It was a beautiful departure that she died in my arms at home, naturally. I had laid alongside her all day into the evening and sang to her for the last 20 minutes before she let go.

   After her last drive through a stunning countryside, we arrived and I had the notion in my mind that if it felt too creepy or wrong, we could take her home and bury her(which would be the only other option). When we pulled up it didn't feel real.....The man who came out looked like a farmer, not a pet cemetery guy,(or at least he didn't look like the guy from the commercial that I was expecting-but it was him)a plus, but I was still rattled and unsure- I had my doubts..I asked the guy "so what made you go into this line of business"?..... i asked abut a million questions and had to wrap my head around what was about to happen...Eventually he asked;"will you be ready in 5 minutes" ? Mike my fiance, tenderly insured me she was really dead and that she really was no longer needing her body...I needed to be told this even tho I knew this....I was a child again in this moment....I huffed her neck, the backs of her velvety ears ,embraced her for a few minutes, one last time and then I let john(the man) take her out of the van and we all went inside .I had her wrapped in a beautiful blanket that i will never wash...and had her cremated with another. felt like being on a farm- that helped me was like a big barn with machinery..a fork lift for horses was the first thing you see upon entering-which he was very proud to show and explain to me,..A huge cremation chamber for them...I tried to think of the furnace Ruby was placed into as a portal-a place in which she would simply go back to the elements and be transformed..By the time I left I had a fondness of sorts, for the furnace-it didn't seem as sinister or morbid anymore....I think that because Ruby was being associated with this beast of a caldron I had to see some sort of beauty in it now..(maybe " beauty" and" fondness" are too strong a words, i'm at a loss for now! i just needed to not be slayed by their epic finality and cruel truth)..I liked that it was open and light inside the room, big glass doors opened to the countryside- not at all creepy....In fact it was helpful that there wasn't any pews, no inner sanctum(tho he said they used to have that in another building, but it burned down) When the dreaded moment came and he placed her in the cremation chamber, a metal door came down slowly and I let out a wail that must have been centuries old....I didn't know a sound like that existed within me. It was so hard to release her, but I knew I had to be there when the process started...when the fire was turned on... to know and see the transformation-to see her out all the way. It was a loud rumble, not unlike a jet engine taking off.

   It turns out the man, John, that runs this operation (family run) was one of the biggest characters I've ever met.....kind of a Santa Claus type...big overalls..long white hair...since the cremation took 90 minutes, he had time to tell me many stories...He told me that he has never cremated a horse that belonged to a man-only women .The most recent one was 45 yrs old (the horse). He told me too that he gets tons of calls from frantic families that have lost elderly loved ones and are about to bury them and then the loved ones old dog suddenly dies...These people want to have a quick cremation so they can put the ashes in the casket. He always helps them out. Not surprising this is so common, as it happened to us. He also told me one of the reasons it was always a rule(back in the day) to not let people be in the same room as the crematory or to not have a wall to separate them from the furnace, is because I guess there is fear of people trying to jump inside to be with their loved one, or pet...i get this!! My guess is he had me pegged as a potential jumper when he heard those wails......but there were no walls.

    Anyway, this place had an animal cemetery and you have to believe wasn't hokey, or lets just say, in this context it made sense and was very sweet and innocent...these folks were for real, or at least they were the type of "for real" I needed them to be.......I sat on a little bench in the cemetery comforted by the fact that there were so many loved, departed pets surrounding me...Tombstones etched with names like "Midnight", "Tootsie" "Samantha Parker" even some horses!..... I sat on a bench and watched Ruby come up out of the smoke stack ..As I mentioned....the setting was extremely rural-hillsides that seemed to be fluorescing(in the words of Gary Heffern regarding his dog Butch's death and my observations of Iowa's stunning coloration)), little homesteads with horses and mules....winding roads...heavenly .It brought me so much comfort to think of her particles descending upon this beautiful swatch of land.

     It just so happened John was a huge bluegrass fan and player -and at some point he invited us into his home which was part of the compound..we had no idea til he invited us in what was in-store....He eventually led us to a room with 100 guitars or so on the walls mostly..but before that he made me play a song and then he sang a couple for me ...Kind of sounded like Johnny Cash-he had major heart and soul, like a preacher singing, which he was- for the was so surreal...but it made me think how amazing it was that Ruby was sent off by this eccentric (in the best of ways )gatekeeper, that was such a celebratory character..its as if she were saying.."Jesse, this is why you play music and can't go off the rails"...and " I'm going to be ok Jesse, I'm just REALLY going to be in everything now, will see me everywhere!".....Anyone that knows me knows, I don't usually sing in strangers living rooms- meaning I don't bust into song just because a guitar is laying around......I'm kind of squirrely that way! But I sang for her....

     They had a huge x-mas tree in the room with all the guitars on the walls- and I asked what the deal was; he said, "oh, that's my music tree." It was decorated with little musical instrument ornaments...When I told him about Ruby being on the stage of the Fillmore once, he gave me an old poster of Janis Joplin "live at The Fillmore"....I didn't feel apologetic for deciding to find meaning in all this...after all Janis Joplin is my earliest hero of the reasons I sing in the first place .I just cant explain the gratitude that I will always associate Ruby's cremation, truly the saddest day of my life so far, with this strange thru the looking glass experience of life affirming, celebratory zeal...Ruby is my guide dog-literally- and she brought me right up to the end, to a place I needed to be...she, the black ribbon running thru my life, tied the final bow .I had always thought it would be dark-a morbid experience to go this route. I said " I'll need to be bathed and spoon fed when she goes"(i'm not out of woods yet frankly)...but instead, I had the minister of an animal cemetery/crematory who chaperoned my sweet girl to the next world, stick a guitar in my hands and say,"sing me song"..


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