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The Waves of Kindness and Grief

 

I want to thank all of you for your wonderful words of kindness and support since Butterfly’s death. It feels like you came to virtually sit Shiva with me this week, to mourn for the loss of Butterfly, and to celebrate her life. My rabbi even dedicated a poem to Butterfly at Friday night services, two days after she died, about the sacred nature of animals and our great good fortune at having them in our lives.

I wasn’t sure, when we first adopted Butterfly, as an eight year old rescue with heart problems, if I would be able to bond with her, or if I was just going to take care of her in her old age and learn generosity of spirit. But she became my baby, my heart and soul, my inspiration to become a better person, and a person more capable of joy.

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I still have an essay about Butterfly’s last illness, and the roller coaster of doctor visits and hospital stays, but I haven’t been up to editing it yet. The first draft was written before she died, when I expected her to recover, and figuring out how it needs to change, now, has been too hard.

Cricket has shifted in some essential way, internally, as if she needed to make room for part of her sister’s soul. She snuggles with me more than ever before. She eats enough kibble to rival her sister’s moniker of the super pooper. Just this morning, Cricket left two pieces of kibble of the rug again, right where Butterfly would have put them. She’s even giving licks, on occasion. And a brown and yellow tortoise shell butterfly has taken up residence in our bathroom, one of Butterfly’s favorite places to hang out, do her bathmat art, and find peace. Mom set out a cap full of water and a piece of kibble, just in case.

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I don’t usually, or ever, advertise products or companies on my blog, and that’s not my intention now, but I have to tell you a story. The day after Butterfly died, a bag of her diabetic dog food arrived from Chewy.com. We had a regular order with them, every few months, and it was already on its way when Butterfly died. Mom wrote to them right away to cancel future orders, and explained why, and they immediately sent us a condolence note and refunded the cost of the last bag of food, telling us to donate it to a local animal shelter.

A week later, we received a bouquet of red and white roses from Chewy.com, and Butterfly’s ashes from the clinic, on the same day, at the same time. I had forgotten about the ashes. Mom couldn’t even open the shipping box through her tears, so I put on my bravado and opened the box, removed the paperwork, and then the paper bag with the order form stapled to the front. The process became harder with each step. There was a white box inside of the paper bag, and then gold tissue paper wrapped around a decorative tin with flowers painted on all four sides. This was the end, inside of the tin were the ashes. The decorated tin reminded me of a jigsaw puzzle I once had, stored in a similarly decorated metal tin.

I was overcome by the reality of Butterfly’s ashes, devastated by it, really. We’d never asked for ashes of a pet, or a person, before. It seemed right on the day she died, when the clinic offered us that option, but seeing that tin made me feel sick, and overwhelmed. I didn’t want to scatter her ashes in the backyard, the way we’d originally planned. The idea of it turned bitter in my mind as soon as I saw the tin, as if we would be throwing Butterfly away.

The only comforting thought I could muster at the time was to bring her to my grandfather’s grave, and let her rest there with him. Because they would have loved each other.

We still need to put the bag of dog food in the car and schlep it over to the shelter – which will be hard. And then make the journey to my grandfather’s grave as well, which, for now, feels impossible. The ashes sit behind Butterfly’s picture, which is surrounded by condolence cards, and those red and white roses. And this is where they belong, for now.

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

152 responses »

  1. It is a hard time when a beloved pet dies.My cat Phoenix went to sleep when he was 18. I had him from a kitten. When I had to go to the vet with him I had some lycoris/nerines flowering so took them with us. Along with his favourite blanket. His ashes are in a resin rock and they are on a bookcase where I see it every day. I still occasionaly see him from the corner of my eye and know that he is dropping by to check on me. And every year when the Lycoris/nerine flowers I treat it as a present from him and brings back the good memories. Big hugs to you and your Mum, When the time is right you will put Butterfly somewhere that you can see and remember the fun you had and the love Butterfly had for you.

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  2. Butterfly sent that butterfly. Thanks for sharing that beautiful mystical truth. Please give Cricket a pat from me. Poor baby.

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  3. My thoughts all week have been with you, your Mom and Cricket . I know this is such a hard time for all of you. I know with time you will feel better and you have each other to help you though. I have all my dogs ashes and I thought when I start showing signs that it will be my time to leave this earth I would spread their ashes. Now I am not sure because I don’t want to think I am throwing them away. I am going to have to think on this for a bit and have a talk with my son.

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  4. RIP, Butterfly. I don’t have any pets but still feel sorry for your loss.

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  5. My heartfelt sympathy for your loss. Butterfly’s presence is nearby, watching over you through these dark days: two pieces of kibble on the rug and the tortoiseshell butterfly in the bathroom. You will never “get over” her loss but, as a dear friend said to me recently, you will in time get used to the new reality.

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  6. I have Nikki and Squash ashes in my memory cabinet along with my father in law. Don’t know why but they bring me great comfort. Take your time. When you are ready the shelter and your grandfather will be there.

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  7. When our Amber died last October we spread her ashes together. When I looked at them it made me think, “this is Amber seed!” So we spread her ashes all around the house like one might spread flower seeds and now whenever a butterfly or some other insect decides to perch on my arm I think it’s a part of Amber paying me a visit. She’s not Amber anymore but just, I want to say, much much more Amber! Hope that makes sense. Take your time with this process and all will be well. The energy and wonderful Butterfly was in her doggy form is just different and timeless…no boundaries.

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  8. So sorry for your loss, Rachel. We have our pups’ ashes too, and in a way, it’s comforting to know that they’ll be mixed with ours one day and cast to the wind together. Wishing you the best during this sad time.

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  9. It’s strange , when my beloved Wil-e departed a Butterfly seem to be following me around the garden I think maybe was him saying goodbye.
    My thought’s are with you Rachel .

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  10. It’s hard to read this and not cry.

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  11. Such a moving post Rachel…hugs to you, your Mom, and little Cricket. It’s really nice to hear that chewy.com was so kind when you told them what happened. We order cat stuff from them and it’s good to know that.

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  12. I love Chewy. That is really nice of them. I really have nothing to say because nothing really can make it better. It is just so difficult when a pet dies. I am so sorry.

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  13. We have buried the ashes of two of our dogs in the yard. Our grandchildren like to ask where they are buried. They seem to like knowing. They sometimes like to go visit the spot. I hope you find the place they belong, probably near your grandfather as you seem to intuit.

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  14. We’ve had our pets cremated for a number of years because we couldn’t bear to bury them in the back yard and then move. I’ve heard that when I die, they can put the pets’ ashes in my coffin. I like that idea.

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  15. I hope you are okay Rachel. Sending love and thoughts x

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  16. So kind of the pet food company. It gives me hope that not all companies are heartless!

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  17. This is very touching and emotional ! I am sorry for your loss and you are in my prayers!!

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  18. Pingback: ‘The Waves of Kindness and grief’ | Dotty About Animals

  19. I’m so so sorry… We’ll have you all in our thoughts ❤

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  20. I’m so glad to hear that you’ve received such kindness in your grief. I have to admit, I still have the ashes of my cat Olaf, who died 7 years ago, in my sock drawer because I still can’t manage to make a decision about them. I think you’ve come up with a wonderful solution.

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  21. The loss of a pet is one of the most heartbreaking occurrences in anyone’s life, I believe. I was absolutely devastated when my childhood cat died…my heart goes out to you during this troubling time. Take care

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  22. The grief and pain of the loss of our beloved pets is palpable. I have the memories of every furrbaby I have loved and lost over the past 65 years. And we will always remember them. Reading your words of little Butterfly brings tears of remembrance for my animals and empathy for you for your recent loss. Praying you find strength and comfort at this difficult time.

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  23. Sooooo sooo sorry to hear about Butterfly. I’ve obviously neglected to browse for awhile. I know how it is to love your dog so so much. They give us a lot of comfort and companionship. Be well.

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  24. Dear,dear Rachel,dear Mom,dear Cricket; Oh! I am so, so sorry for your loss. It is a knife wound to our hearts when we lose our little ones. Please accept my deepest sympathy during this tragic loss. I lost my Baby Izzy 2 weeks ago, and the loss is palpable here with the other kids. Knowing that God is Love, and loves His creation, and that he is just has helped me to let the sharpest pain go, but Izzy will always have a place in, and a piece of, my heart. Just as dear Butterfly will always have with you, Mom, and Cricket. Please find solace, and peace in the knowledge that Butterfly will always live thru your stories essays.
    Thank you for sharing Butterfly with all of us!!

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  25. such a heartfelt tribute.
    may she continue wagging
    in your compassionate heart’s
    words & actions.

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  26. Your Mom sounds a special lady full of compassion like yourself. What kindness from the Rabbi and even dog food people. I hope all those things help you through. Love Mokex

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  27. Thank you for sharing everything about Butterfly here. I have my Service Dog, Houston’s cremains in a carved wooden box in the table next to my bed. Sometimes in the middle of the night I swear I feel him standing next to the bed where he’d come to check on me.
    Butterfly will always be with you. She’s part of your heart. And you are her heart.

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    • We have these little white butterflies in our backyard and usually they find somewhere to rest once it gets dark, but last night, one came out to follow us as we walked Cricket. I know Butterfly is visiting us and it comforts me.

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      • It sounds trite but it’s true. In time you’ll be able to think of Butterfly, not without some sadness, but without the overwhelming sadness you feel now.

  28. I’m so sorry for your loss, and what a beautiful, sensitive piece of writing – just like the other posts – I feel so sad reading it, at your loss, but can also get a lovely sense of how sweet Butterfly was. Don’t feel that you have to rush to do anything with her ashes straight away. You’ll know when the time is right.

    Reply

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