I used to be real scared of death ‘til I lived through four funerals in a year. I used to stand at the back of the viewing room and admire the flowers. I’d sign the guest book and say, “I’m sorry for your loss.” Then I’d look at the coffin in the front of the room and drum my fingers in the air. “See you in heaven . . . I hope.”
I remember when our Beagle, Lacy June Bug Lulu Bell, died. I hate to say it, but it was her own doggone fault.
Being a Beagle, she loved to run and she loved to pillage trash cans. One day she picked the wrong time of the month and the wrong trash can. Within twelve hours she wasn’t eating or drinking. Our vet, Dr. Doom, performed multiple surgeries on her, removing highly absorbent objects from her small intestine.
We called him Dr. Doom because he was a pessimist. The vet techs would say, “Lacy’s doing better. She tried to bite us today.” That’s a good thing? Dr. Doom, who looked like John Malkovich, would shake his head. “She’s not out of the woods yet.”
Every night for two weeks we’d visit Lacy after supper. She’d be lying on her side and her tail would thump once or twice. Cody Brook would squeeze her two-year old hand through the bars and pet Lacy’s silky ears. I’d stand behind her and sniff.
Every morning I called the vet’s office and they’d put me on hold. Dr. Doom would come on the line and say, “She’s hanging in there, but you may want to start thinking about—“
“Gotta go,” I’d say. I didn’t want to think about what he wanted me to think about.
One morning Dr. Doom called me before I could call him. My heart jumped into my throat. Josy, then five years old, was doing a paint-with-water picture at the dining room table. I walked into the living room so she couldn’t hear my conversation.
“Lacy died in her sleep,” he said.
“She looked peaceful.”
I fell back on the sofa, feeling like the air’d been let out of me.
“Thanks,” I said. “I mean . . . ‘bye.’”
Josy bounced into the room, waving her wet painting of Princess Jasmine and Prince Ali, fabulous he, Ali A Babwa.
“Looky! Looky!” she said. She stopped waving her picture when she saw my face.
I wiped tears and snot away with my robe sleeve.
Josy looked at it and said, “Looks like a slug trail.”
I didn’t smile. “Lacy died this morning.”
I prepared to fold her sobbing form into my arms.
Instead, as I watched her, I saw her frown turn into a smile, kinda like a rain storm turning into a rainbow.
“It’s okay, Mommy,” she said.
My head dropped and my mouth fell open.
She flipped her palms up and threw one of her little girl hips to the side. “It’s just the circle of life.”
I squinted at her.
“You know,” she said. “Like in the Lion King?”
I shut my mouth and shook my head. I patted the sofa beside me.
She ignored the pat and headed back to the dining room. “I’m going to paint Belle and the Beast next,” she said over her shoulder.
I thought of Lacy again and sighed. I let my body fall over. The sofa caught me.
“Thanks Walt Disney,” I said to the fireplace. “For providing grief counseling to my kids.”
The phone rang but I ignored it. I listened to Dr. Doom leave a message.
“Let us know if you’ll be picking up Lacy or if you prefer cremation,” he said. “Oh, and if I didn’t say it before, I’m sorry for your loss.”