Wonder dog’s ashes are in the kitchen on the counter in a red and yellow flowered tin. No one asked – plastic bag? box? plain silver tin? I thought this was getting easier and yet – today it’s so much harder. I held back tears at least 10 times. I mean that’s what you are supposed to do – right? when you can hold them back you do? when you can’t you don’t? They all came out later, but in the moment I didn’t want to cry anymore.
We picked up Wonder’s ashes at Dignified Pets Cremation and drove to the Oregon Coast with the windows down and Wonder in her tin. Zelda our other dog laid in the back of the car as if nothing was different. The day Wonder died little Z went over to Wonder’s bed and laid down in it, but other than that nothing seems different for her.
I asked Wonder for a sign – I know that sounds silly – seeing as I don’t believe in an afterlife. I do believe energy is energy and it has to go somewhere. So, I asked and at the Coast nothing remarkable happened. No sign – okay.
We got home, fed Isabel the cat and Zelda and went for a drink and some dinner. We ended up at Cascade Barrel House. We don’t go there that often, but it was a spring-ish/summery kind of day and the only beer I like are sours and it seemed fitting for warm weather. Julie, my partner of partners, my forever dream date, has been amazing through all of this, looks at the menu and says they have a Wonder Red on the special list. I hadn’t told her about asking for the sign and I hadn’t looked at the menu yet. Wonder Red? A sign? I don’t know – I’ll take it. I’ve never seen a beer called Wonder or another dog called Wonder. So maybe somehow the two mean something. Wonder. Wonder?
It takes me back to when my brother was dying. He was having a hard time coming to terms with it. He was 30 and I was 25. I didn’t understand it either. He had moved to Portland to be closer to family. I didn’t know that meant he was going to die soon. Looking back, it should have been obvious. He had once been tall and handsome. But now his 6’2″ muscly, strong body, had withered to less than 100lbs.
He pulled me aside one day, his soft pin-striped button down brushing against my skin, his cane clicking every other step as we walked. It was just after my birthday, where he had given me a diamond earring. Now I see he was trying to tell me something. But at the time, I only wondered why he’d given it to me. He’d never given me anything before, except a hard time, like any good big brother.
He stopped, his eyes dropped to mine, bending over a little. His blue eyes dancing, “I want to take you to breakfast this week, okay? Just us, okay?” “Yeah sure Bob, yeah.” He liked to be called Robert these days, but I could never come to terms with that change. He was Bobby to me. No matter what my Father said years ago about a real man not being called Bobby. He was a real man – an ex-Navy officer.
We went to breakfast at his favorite place and he ordered his bacon – soft, not crispy. I thought – who orders bacon in a particular way? It’s just bacon. That’s how he was though, unlike me he knew what he liked and how he wanted it. I took note that I might want to figure that out one day.
We sat and ate and talked about our Mother and Father, who had both been gone for 6 years. Then he stopped and with conviction said “Amy, I’m going on a trip, do you want to go with me?”
“Bob, you should ask your doctor about this trip, I don’t think you can go on a trip right now.”
“No really, I’m going on a trip and I want you to come.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“I’m going with or without you.”
“Okay then, where are you going?”
“Somewhere like Hawaii or something tropical.”
I was young. Going to Hawaii was so far removed from my life that the thought of saying yes made me dreamy and so I did. “Yes, I’ll go with you.”
Bob ended up in the hospital ten days later. He kept saying he wanted to go home and see his dog Molly. He wanted to be home with her. While people left to get “home” ready for him, I sat on the side of his hospital bed “Do you need more morphine?”
“No, I’m fine. I just want to be home.”
We talked but not much.
His breath slowing.
“Can I hold your hand?” I asked
He smiled. “Yes.”
“I’m sorry if I start crying Bob, I know it’s probably weird to have people standing around crying when you are here feeling like this.”
It was clear he was not going to be going home.
“You know Bob, if there is something after this, could you send me a sign? I’ve wondered if there is something else after this life and I know you understand that. So send me a sign okay?”
He took his last breath not long after that. And he was gone.
I went about life as quickly as I could, working, being busy, getting away from grief. Bob came to me in dreams those first couple of weeks, continuing to talk about his big trip. I thought that was sign enough, but I was young and kept asking him for more signs.
I went camping not long after that. I loathe camping, but for some reason I was going camping. One night as a million stars shined down, I looked through the fire and there was Bob standing by a tree and he said – “I’m still going on that trip. Do you want to go with me?”
I don’t know if it was real or I was delirious from grief, but it scared me, so much so that I yelled “You’re scaring me now! I can’t do this – you have to go!” I have not seen my brother again.
Was he trying to tell me that there was something after this life or that your energy doesn’t die? My brother and I agreed before he died that it was the latter. You don’t disappear you live on in some way even if only in the collective thoughts of everyone else.
That’s how life goes. We learn from our previous experience, or if we choose not to learn, we might experience it in the same way. For me – when I ask for a sign, I’ll take the first one. Thank you Wonder Red for appearing on a menu.