Collecting Your Ashes. Our Message to Gracey after Two Weeks

This entry is part 4 of 16 in the series Messages to Gracey







Your dad and I have made it two weeks now.  I had to ask him this morning if it had been three weeks because it seems at least that long.  I still have a headache when I wake up in the morning. Still tired and fighting the depression of losing you.  I have a box of tissues in the passenger side of the Jeep because I just never know when I

Gracey, The Tiniest Tiger

might be shedding  a few tears. Your dad has decided to wean himself off of comfort food by transitioning from chocolate cupcakes to lemon cupcakes.  I don’t ask, I just smile and envy his metabolism. It is all part of the journey.

At night sometimes I still think I can hear your claws on  your scratching whale and it is still super hard to come home and not see you running to greet us.  Our hearts sink when the key goes in the lock.  You knew when you heard the word “disarmed” that we were coming back into the house  and seeing your big green eyes made us smile from ear to ear.  Your water fountain is still unplugged and stagnant.  I know I should pick it up and put it away.

After work today, I went to the clinic to collect your ashes.  To be honest, I put this off for a few days. Your dad listened to the voice mail message maybe even last week, I am sorry, the days have all run together and I am not certain and don’t seem to care enough to sort them out. But today your dad encouraged me to go ahead and stop on my way home.

I had to steel myself to walk back in the door, the smells, the smiles on friendly faces and the heartache of having to say out loud. “I am here to collect Gracey’s ashes.”   You would be proud because I was brave and stood waiting, emotions all in check.  But then I saw the beautiful little wooden box I chose just after we lost you and that lump in my throat returned. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes and I thanked everyone again for how much they cared for you too.

I made it outside and got into the Jeep.  I carefully opened the pretty bag holding your box and I ran my finger over the hand carved design on the top that reminded me of an Indonesian design and that is why I chose it because if you were a tiger, I think you would have been a Sumatran tiger.  You were a petite cat and even though you liked to behave like your big cousin the Amur tiger, let’s be honest you weren’t so fond of getting your paws cold and wet in the snow.  You were much more suited to meditating in the sun in your thinking circle.

At first this made me smile but when I saw  “Gracey” on the name plate,  I felt the emotional wave break and I began to cry so hard right there in my car.  I couldn’t  breathe and my  stomach hurt. I thought I might throw up. I know of course as a rational being that you passed away in my arms two weeks ago, but seeing your name on the box made it seem so final.  Like the exclamation point at the end of a run on  sentence.

I thought I would call your dad and that would make me feel better, but when I heard his voice, I couldn’t speak.  He heard me sobbing and he said, “Oh Jo, I know it’s so hard.”  And then he said “You aren’t driving like that are you?”  And that made me laugh through the tears because you know how he worries.  And I said yes, but I am really fine and he had to think stubborn Irish woman.

There was a storm coming when I got home  and the wind  really picked up.  Your dad and I  were looking out the kitchen  window when Bossy Backyard Blue Jay came to the sun room and was looking inside.  This was the first time  your dad witnessed his behavior.  Bossy then flew over on the perch outside the window and looked in at both of us. He tilted his head to one side and I told him to get back to his pine tree and stay safe.  He stayed longer and the wind was really blowing.  I started to worry something was wrong with him and then he flew away into the pines.  Your dad was speechless.

I think he sees you in the sun room.  I like that thought.

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  1. This one made the tears come as I remember what it felt like when I picked up my kitties ashes. I am at a loss for words to make you feel better. Gracey was very special and I know she will always be with you.
    Sue B

  2. I deal with so many cats, but losing them always hits me like this. Cats are just something truly special.

  3. Christine says

    I know exactly what you are going through. I just had to take my cat Tom to the vet two days ago to have him put down. It was heart wrenching, the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. I had him 20 long years, since he was just a kitten. His fight was just over, but nothing could have prepared me for the intense grief that I am experiencing now. I understand completely what you are going through, and my thoughts and prayers are with you both.

  4. Sherri Hildebrandt says

    Joanne, I could hardly read your words because of the tears flowing down my face. I am a sobbing wreck each time I read one of your posts about little Gracey. I know exactly how it is to go pick up the ashes. When I did that after the passing of my Rosemary, many long years ago, I was just like you: Held it all together at the vet’s office, then got in the car and sat and wept my heart out. I so loved Gracey through your posts and stories – I felt like I knew her! And I miss her, now, too. Just as you shared her amazing life with us, I am deeply grateful that you share your feelings about her loss. You are not alone on this journey. My heart goes out to you and Paul. This is one of the hardest things in life. Thinking of you, often.

  5. I am so sorry, I know exactly how you are feeling and it is so hard. How unexpected it is to learn that Gracey passed, I am so saddened to hear this. About a year ago my sweet Fluffy passed who I had from the age of 6 to 23, 17 1/2 years. When I picked up her ashes it was so similar to what you said. I talked with the lady at the front desk, talking about Fluffy, our 2 dogs, and her pets. I felt like I could hold it together. But when I saw that little box with “Fluffy” printed on the sticker on top I just lost it. The weight of the little box of Fluffy’s ashes weighed so deeply on my heart my whole body ached. We drove far to pick up her ashes and had to wait a bit too. The day was cloudy with no blue in the sky that whole morning. After we walked out the sun was shining and it had warmed a little. I believe it was God reminding me that although Fluffy’s precious ashes of her little body we loved so much was in that box, she was truly in Heaven with Him and thought brought me some comfort. Only 3 months later I went through the same thing when we lost our 14 year old golden-retriever/lab mix Sandy. It was a very hard time for our family, two losses so close to one another. I am so sorry for your loss and what you are going through. You will be in my prayers.

  6. Rebecca MacIsaac says

    Your post is well written, I had to wait to pick up Merlot ashes, he was ready before I left to see my granddaughter, but I could not bring myself to do it. When I got home I could not go by myself, I waited an week until hubby was home. You are right that little box is final – no more denying. Love the Bossy Blue Jay. I know that my other Raggies feel Merlot presence as I feel him there at times. Hugs to you

  7. beth1954 says

    So sad……….beautifully written. I had to do this with my 19 yr old cat just a couple of months ago. Still crying.

  8. Danease Gresch says

    I just brought myself to read your posting. I knew I would cry. I’ve been through this several times and it doesn’t get any easier. My last cat, Big Girl, who passed on about 3 years ago on an October evening, was the worst loss of all. She was my soul mate and seemed to understand everything about me – – when I was happy, sad, worried, sick – – whatever, she was there kissing me to let me know she cared. I did all I could for her, but in the end it wasn’t enough. She was my baby – – my right arm – – everything! So yes, I understand just what you are going through. I’m thankful my Big Girl passed away peacefully – – as I asked God for this. He heard me, I know and received her little soul. I have 2 wonderful cats now whom I love dearly – – but they can never take her place. They fill a new place in my heart with joy and happiness as I know my BG would have wanted. I know you both will find a place in your heart for more wonderful creatures like Gracie. They won’t take her place ever – – but you will grow new bonds with them and the sun will shine again! God Bless you both!

  9. Billie-Renee Knight says

    I cry every time I read your reflections. I loved reading about Gracey’s adventures and it broke my heart to learn she was gone. She looked so much like my Hemingway and when I lost him just a year ago I would visit the Tiniest Tiger just to see photos of Gracey because she reminded me so much of him. Your loss has brought back all those emotions I went through then. I am truly sorry for your loss and wish you good thoughts and memories of your Gracey.

  10. TXLadyPatriot says

    Beautiful words, Joanne! I am so glad you are sharing your thoughts with us. Not many others are able to do this because it is so personal. To you and your husband … May your hearts soon be filled with joyful memories as you celebrate Gracey’s wonderful life that she had with you. Much love and prayers for you both. ~Diane Milligan

  11. Reneda Cooper Baer says

    My heart just breaks for you. I just wish I could make it all better for you, bring Gracey back home to your arms where she belongs. But Gracey will live on in the immense love you have for her. She was a very blessed kitty to know such love. I truly hope that, with time, you find peace in your heart. It takes times, sometimes a lot of time, but the hurt will ease eventually. The love never ends though. A love this strong will go on through all of time. I’m sure Gracey still watches over you and wishes she could ease your pain as well. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

  12. Lori Smith says

    Dearest Joann. My eyes are full of tears for you. The loss is tremendous…I wish I could hug you. I’m so so sorry for you and your husband. Gracey lives in precious memories.

  13. michele c. hollow says

    My eyes are filled with tears. And you know that Gracey is a part of you. She is forever in your hearts.

  14. Crying right with you. I’ve gone through this three times now. And I have a 20 year old gentleman so I’m aware every day I watch him amble a little more slowly across the room that I’ll be doing it again, sooner than I’d like.

  15. aww-just heard about this. so sorry :O( but she is home now and in a happy place.

  16. Phoerauf says

    Joanne, your emotions are so real and so telling of how very, very much you loved your Gracey. Sending more love.

  17. Janet Collins says

    Oh Joanne…tears, hugs, love,…your precious Gracey…thank you for sharing yours and your husbands love for her…we all still love her too!!! xoxox

  18. Jerzeecat says

    I think your right about Bossy still seeing Gracey in the sun room. It’s good that your still writing even though it’s difficult. Gracey will always be with us. Your in our prayers.

  19. Dawn Williams says

    My heart goes out to you guys i no how you feel that was a beautiful storey you wrote about gracey while i was reading it tears was falling down my face she was such a beautiful cat i’m so so sorry about your lost she will always be with you were ever you go cause you will always carry her love and her sweet beatiful memories in a very special place in your heart an she is still with you in spirit were ever you are she is right there with you telling you how much she loves you and how you’re so special to her and telling you that everything will be alright and that i’ll always be bye your side rip beautiful baby girl i didn’t no you but it was so sad that you had to go you will be sadly mist by your family once again my heart goes out to.

  20. katboxjanitor says

    Oh, this brings back such strong memories and tears. Your love for Gracey shines through in your writing. Thanks for sharing your love for Gracey and I wish I could do more to help. There are times when I could swear my ‘shadow’ kitty Toes (the solid grey in my avatar) is passing through the room, just at the edge of my vision.

    I believe the Bossy Blue Jay was, in his feathery way, honoring his long-time observer. She was such an important part of your corner of the world that her physical presence is missed.

  21. sandpipercat says

    Sending virtual hugs until I can give you a real one! We miss them so much. Hugs <3

  22. I understand exactly what you’re going through. I’m so sorry for your loss. Gracey was a beautiful girl. Her eyes are the same color of my baby’s eyes that I lost today after almost 16 years. I feel numb and don’t now how life will go on without my special girl. I had a panic attack when pulling into the driveway after we dropped her off for cremation. Does it ever get easier? I hope so for us both. I have 4 other kitties to look after, but get emotional every time I open a can of food. I worry I’ll take out 5 plates instead of 4 and start crying when I realize that I’ve done so. The other cats are my solace though. Just know you are not alone in the way you are feeling. I’m glad somebody else realizes that these are not “just” cats that we lost, but our loves.

  23. Barbara McIntosh says

    Your tribute to Gracey brings tears to my eyes. I, too, know the pain of losing a special being. It is almost 2 years since we lost our beloved kitty, Buddy. He was older, possibly 17. We really didn’t know because we rescued him from a city park, and the vet estimated his age at the time to be about 12. He had struggled with hyperthyroidism for a few years, but seemed to be doing a lot better and then he suddenly crashed. Like you, we and the vet tried everything, but in the end nothing worked. We will always love and miss him and he will live forever in our hearts, as Gracey will in yours.

  24. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  25. Linda Molinari says

    Gracey will be missed as will your posts. i wish you both peace during this time. i know how hard it is, losing my beloved Merlin a year and a half ago, after his loving companionship for 12.5 years. i am still lost with out him. i send you love and prayers.. <3

  26. The Boyz's Momma says

    Oh… my heart is breaking for you so very much! And a little for me, as I am just learning of Gracey’s passing over the Bridge. I apologize so very deeply, but have been wrapped in the business of embarking on a new business, and had a very sick kittie who hung on and did not make the trip… Oh my God I cannot begin to tell you how utterly horrible I feel for being remiss! You and Gracey have been there with me — with us — for many heartbreaking events. And all I can say is the same as everyone, the same thing you know — she is, and always will be with you, and is the very fiber of everything you do, all of your kindness, your giving, your efforts. Wow… simply astounded and again, I apologize so very deeply… I and The Boyz send the most sincere and loving of paw pats and whisker tisses… ((( <3 ))) (absorbing… I am so so so sorry!!!)

  27. Laura Davis says

    I miss your beautiful little Gracey girl, too. I’m so sorry she is gone all too soon. Thanks for sharing her with us.

  28. I know exactly what you are feeling and my heart goes out to you. Several years ago I received a call at work from my newly licensed son. Someone ran a stoplight, hit his car as he was going through the intersection, then drove off. I left work and took him to urgent care to make sure he was okay. When we arrived back home, one of my cats was laying in front of our driveway. Apparently in all the chaos, he got out (something he was NEVER interested in doing. My guess was he picked up on the anxiety and decided to leave with his people to “fix” things.) and someone hit him right in front of my house. They couldn’t even be bothered to at least move him out of the street. He, too, was a tiger tabby. The day I had to collect his ashes ranks right up there with my most darkest of days. I am truly sorry for your loss.

  29. Beachgram says

    I wept as I read this because I went through this a year ago, when I lost my precious 18 year old Annabelle. I held her in my arms, too, as the vet did what had to be done. And I understand how difficult it was to see the box of Gracey’s ashes, and you’re right – although you know the cat has passed, seeing a box of her ashes makes it all too awfully final.

    My heart aches for you and I wish I could ease your pain. But only time will do that.

    I was touched by what you wrote about Bossy Backyard Blue Jay, and I think you’re right about his seeing Gracey in the sunroom.

    Please take care and be gentle with yourself; what you are going through is so very difficult. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your husband.

  30. Amelia's Mom says

    Joanne, writing as you do is so much a part of the healing process. Gracey is still in your home and yes, always will be. Your box sounds beautiful. Thank you again for sharing her with us, she was a very special little soul and continues to be.

  31. April Billings says

    I am crying with you. I didn’t put my cat’s things away for weeks. I just couldn’t do it. Thinking of you and understanding what you are going through.

  32. L.a. Presas says

    Joanne I just am so so sorry. I thank you for sharing Gracey with all of us and I pray for peace for your family as you come to terms with this terrible terrible loss.

  33. The love…I can feel the love. When I think of the cats who I only know through the blogosphere, I feel like they are all still with us here…then I visit my Friends We Miss page and realize…they all are still here, in my heart.

    May your heart heal and the tears come less often and the love just grow and grow…

  34. Oh how my heart hurts!! I really loved Gracey. I didn’t get a chance to find out what happened. I loved gracies page and will miss her dearly. God love her.

  35. Gaby'sMom says

    justbreaks my heart what y’all are going thru….

  36. Denise L says

    I’m crying with you as well. I lost my Nick in 2011, but it still seems like yesterday she was thumping behind me through the house. (She only had three legs). Working at a vet clinic myself, I see how hard it is for everyone who loses a pet. They are family, and it leaves a hole when they are gone. It does get easier…but never goes away completely. But really, would we want it to? The love and memories are always there, and I think they are too. Just ask Bossy Blue Jay. Hugs. <3

  37. Lisa Lewis says

    Oh Jo. My heart still hurts for you. Know that you do not grieve alone for the loss of your precious Gracey. Just reading this made me cry for you all over again. May God hold you in his gentle hands and give you comfort.

  38. Such a beautiful reflection you have written. It is symbolic of the reflection of Gracey that I see shimmering from your heart. Gracey is indeed still there in your home, as she always will be, and Gracey shines forth in your words. What a powerful little life, and a beautiful little soul. Keep sharing. Your words are art.

  39. Amy Palmer says

    Oh, boy, did this make me cry. I wish I could wrap my arms around you and give you a shoulder to cry on.