Today we picked up Charlie's ashes. They were in a lovely box with an engraved nameplate for us to put on the box. It was really a lot nicer than I expected, and along with it, a little ceramic paw print with his name stamped into the clay. A very sweet farewell to a precious doggie. I was surprised when I teared up at the sight of the paw print. We decided to put the paw print, his collar and some photos into a shadowbox frame. The ashes we had planned to spread at Grayland beach, but now we're not sure. I always thought it was a little creepy to have a pet's (or human's) ashes on the fireplace mantle for all to see, but that's exactly where I put the box. One of my cousins suggested burying the box. I guess that's an option. We will wait till all the kids are home to make a decision.
In the meantime, we've been having "Charlie sightings" around our house. Weird as that sounds, most of us have experienced some odd phenomenon or other involving our recently deceased pup. Hayley, baking in the kitchen one night just after he died, swore she saw him walk past the counter. And it was not just a fleeting glance - she swears she SAW him walking by just as he always did, and he was chubby, as he had been before getting sick. Arlie and I have both sworn we've heard his nails tapping in a familiar "Charlie" pattern on the hardwood floors downstairs. And Hannah had an odd dream where Charlie was in the house long after he had died, but he was missing his back left leg. In her dream, she had asked Jeff which leg they put the IV in when they put him down and Jeff had replied "the left back leg". In reality, it was the left front leg, but still. It seems Charlie has not left the building.
And maybe that's the way it's supposed to be. After all, our animals move in and around our lives so fluidly, matching our movements, following us as they are being fed, seamlessly moving toward the door as we open it for them to relieve themselves. We become so accustomed to their movements, their constant presence and their shadowy stirrings in the corners of our rooms (and their not-so-shadowy stirrings under our feet when we're hauling a laundry basket full of freshly washed towels up the stairs) that it is not surprising that their presence is felt long after they're gone. But actually seeing them? Hearing them? What do you think?
It's always hard to imagine a loved one "gone" - simply absent from this Earth with no reminders of their time here. So, it is nice that we have the customs and rituals that we do to remember them by. Whether it's a pet's paw print or a cherished heirloom from a beloved family member, it's nice to have something to hold on to. To remember. To keep them here long after they are gone in body. And perhaps that presence, that spirit, is really Charlie after all. We have his pictures to remember his deep, soulful brown eyes, his rotund belly, his embarrassed look wearing a plaid sweater. We are lucky enough to live in a time where we have video so we can see him running, watch him do tricks and sleep in front of the fire so long he's panting from the heat. And now we have his forever paw print and his ashes. Things to remember him by. Charlie after all.