It had to happen and today it did. The vet said “a hamster over two years is really very good” but at this point twenty years would not seem enough.
When anything dies all the other deaths in your life come together. Like a group of gossiping old gals they exchange sad snippets of lives lived and done and over with. Fleeting images of funereal black and cigarettes smoked outside the church before grim faced goodbyes got said.
Just yesterday Small Child and I discussed death – mine in fact. She is studying the second world war this term and is quite fascinated. She is particularly taken with "Adult Hitler" but she thinks he was pretty mean. Homework was to write a letter home pretending you are an evacuee. We discussed Nanny and Grandpa and I tried to help her see that they too were children once and were among the evacuees she is so fascinated by. I explained the tragedy of my own great grandmother and her youngest daughter who died in their Anderson shelter at the bottom of the garden whilst the house itself still stood the next morning. Small child, quite rightly, couldn’t connect to these long lost women from whom she descends. One day I make take her to view their names amongst those other victims of the blitz of 1941 on the memorial at the imperial war museum.
I often, in fact, find myself explaining to Small Child the sayings and doings of ‘The White Hairs’ (our secret name for Nanny and Grandpa) and quite a few of these are leftovers from what was probably the most exciting time of their lives. Nanny for instance will often greet Small Child with “got any gum, chum?” And Grandpa almost always says “T.T.F.N” (Tata for now) instead of ‘goodbye’ which I guess was a comfort during days when goodbyes might well be forever.
“Who will talk at your funeral mum?” says Small Child. Like I am going to let anyone else get that job?
“I will darling, from beyond the grave.”
“Errgh!” she says. Warming to my subject I describe how I will order someone to read my words aloud in the church beginning with “I guess among you will be some who did not know me in life and for them I would like a moments silence, given what they missed out on!” Small Child gets it! Immediately she is in fits of laughter.
“You can’t say that mum.”
“I can say what I like I am dead” says I.
“What else mum?” she says.
“Wailing” I say. “Lots of wailing from the back row and the Thunderbirds theme at the end of the service.” Small child loves this and her laughter continues as she goes up the stairs. A few minutes later she is back.
“You will hear me wailing mum, wherever you are.”
“By that time darling you will just be grateful not to have to change my nappies anymore” I say. She is off again, finding such a concept funnier than she will at thirty five for sure.
And today, whilst she sat in the classroom pondering that war or maybe ran crazy and carefree round the playground on perhaps the last of the warm days I stood in the vets and had a little wail myself whilst in a backroom he put Charlie quietly to sleep. He is lying in a little box on the kitchen worktop now. The vet offered to cremate him for me but I thought Small Child might need a ceremony even if Charlie is beyond caring and I am already thinking of excellent reasons why we cannot have another pet.
This afternoon after she has had a wail she will busy herself decorating the box, filling it with comfy bedding and surrounding his tiny body with flowers and food just as she did the last hamster. We will bury him under the apple tree (also dying but this may just be due to the amount of small dead creatures buried beneath it) and then get on with the day.