With regard to death and in particular, the death of others, I suppose in a way that I have quite lucky. I have no family really and therefore have had very little contact with death. The last time that I had to deal with any effects of death that involved me personally was “Lockerbie” way back in 1988 and even that was an extremely unusual relationship with death, involving court and inquiry appearances.
And yet as I sit here now, I can glance up to the mantelpiece and see a small wooden box upon it. It is about five inches long, three inches high and three inches deep. If I were to get up and look at the top of it, I know that I would find a shiny brass plate, which is simply engraved, “Basil”.
Basil was a beagle who died, rather tragically a short while ago. He was never my dog as such, yet he had been a constant companion for the past three years. Referred to in the house by others as “the stupid beagle” he was considered the genuine “underdog”, the slightly simple boy. Because of this I think, he quickly became my favourite of the two dogs.
I have been surprised a little by my own reactions to his death. As someone who has previously delivered bereavement counselling to others, I should be familiar with most of the possible emotional responses, yet, I still seem to have managed to surprise myself. The true owner of Basil decided to have him cremated and his ashes kept in the aforementioned box. In the past, I would have expected to have not wanted to let go and to have relished the prospect of hanging on to his ashes in an attempt to hold on to him and not let him go. Yet as I sit here and regard the box of ashes, it just doesn’t feel like he is there. To me, he is gone. I wish he hadn’t, but he has.
Of course I completely respect the desire of his owner to want to keep his ashes, but to me it doesn’t really represent any lingering tactile reminder of him. To me, Basil is in the dozens of blankets in which we still find his doghairs. He is in the ragged soft toys that the new puppy is busy destroying. He is on the landing stair where I would sit and chat to him, singing him little songs that I would make up about him. He is on the sofa where he never should have really been, but frequently was, usually pretending to be asleep so that we didn’t move him (and they called him “stupid”)! He is in many places, just not in the box above the fireplace. At least not for me.
We have another beagle, Bertie and we have a new puppy, Barnaby and together they make a great pair, but I still miss my little friend.