School uniform. No shoes. Grim expression. “Mum. I’ve got some bad news. Babee is dead. She got hit by a car.”
These words were wrong. These words didn’t properly register. But my body kicked into action. I walked to her bowls, where they were lying empty on the kitchen floor and moved them into the sink to be washed. I walked to the linen closet, took out a towel and handed it to Daniel. “Can you wrap her in this and put her in the bin outside.” It was a statement not a request.
As realisation began to sink in, the one thing that became clear was I could not see her lifeless body. I needed her to be put away from me.
“You’ll have to ride to school, boys. I don’t think I can drive.” Bland tone, but I knew it to be true. I dialled my boss to let her know I wasn’t going to be in today. She was sympathetic and understanding. I felt emotionless but my body had become heavy as though her death weight had been absorbed into my bones. I knew I had to ring my house mate to break the news, so I dialled. She picked up straight away.
“Babee’s dead. She was hit by a car.” My house mate burst into tears and it was like I now had permission to cry too. I started to sob.
“I’m coming home.”
“No. I’ll be okay.” It wasn’t true. But I’ve always been okay. I didn’t want to be a person who needed help.
“I’ll be there soon.”
At some stage through this the boys had left for school and I sank into the couch, staring into nothing and beginning to see a long life, stretching into an empty future without my faithful little friend by my side, talking our private talk, loving me unconditionally, always wanting to cuddle me and be cuddled by me.
I heard Sharon’s key in the door and stood up to accept the hug of grief and shared sadness. Babee being gone felt surreal and it was like we were pretending to grieve. Like it still wasn’t true. She explained she’d brought her work mate to help – that Babee couldn’t stay in the bin (I knew this already but just couldn’t deal with anything) and she asked if I wanted her cremated or buried…
It’s funny how things become clear in the midst of trauma. But I knew with certainty I didn’t want her cremated and that I wanted her buried in the garden of my new house, so she could be near me always.
Sharon’s work mate was incredible, moving quietly in the background, retrieving Babee from the bin to wrap her in her favourite mohair rug, placing her in the esky with every bit of ice she could find from the freezer to keep her cool until Sharon was able to end her work day and drive us to the new house to bury Babee. As all this was going on I was curled up in a fetal position on my bed, howling. I could hear their activities and their hushed voices – making decisions. Making things easier for me.
Eventually Sharon knocked on my door and told me they had to return to work. “Will you be okay?” I got off my bed and went out to thank them. It was a bleak scene that met me. The esky was covered in another rug and there were candles and angels arranged on top. Babee’s shrine. I suddenly didn’t want them to go. I didn’t want to be alone in the house with my Babee, dead, her little body crushed, inside that shine. But they had to go.
One last sympathetic hug. They turned to leave. They opened the front door. Sharon’s tremulous voice called me, “Andie! There’s a cat at the door! Andie!” I looked through the screen door at the black and white cat.
There was no mistaking it. This cat looked expectantly at the door. She wanted to be let in. It was Babee!
I am not proud of what happened next. Suffice to say it is not really possible to laugh and howl at the same time and that hardwood floors are definately not comfortable.
I rang the school office to let my boys hear the incredible news that Babee was not dead after all. Daniel texted me as soon as he found out…
“You mean I picked up a dead cat for nothing?”