Ashes to Ashes

When I took Bella to the vet that Sunday, totally oblivious to the complete destruction ahead of us, a family sat in the waiting area with somber looks and tightly held tissues. A tech came from the back with a small cardboard box folded to the shape of a casket. “I’m so sorry for your loss. We did everything we could.” That moment haunted me through Bella’s rapid illness, and when it came to be her time, I withered at the image of what we would be getting in return.

Angel Wing Begonias have become a staple of our lives. Shelby received a clipping 10,000 years ago that has propagated and spawned many a housewarming gift, opening night memento, Christmas/Birthday present…you name it and we’ve probably given someone a cutting for it. They flower beautifully when they are ready. Depending on the amount of sunlight, our flowers range from a pink so light it’s almost white to a deep red. Bella used to love the flowers. For the first few weeks she was with us, she would pluck them from the branch and chomp away. They didn’t seem to be doing her any harm, but we weren’t so keen on the idea of her nibbling our plants. She soon learned that we would let her have the flowers, but she had to wait until they had fallen to the ground. The last thing she ate was a flower from the original plant, mother to all the others in our collection.

We elected to have Bella cremated and have her cremains returned to us. We wouldn’t bury her, the logistics of moving and finding a place that would be meaningful and available to us later and picturing her deteriorating over time was just never an option. It just seemed wrong to have her cremated with a group of animals, she was always so independent. Shelby and I had similar expectations for what we would receive when we got the phone call that her ashes were ready to be returned; a plastic bag tucked into a tiny cardboard box. Instead, we received a beautiful and simple wooden box with a bronze nameplate we can choose to engrave. They included a sprig of Rosemary and another paw print with her name and the year. On the back is engraved “Rosemary for remembrance” which is more fitting for our family than the crematory could have ever guessed.

We have cuttings from two begonias rooting in a jar by the window where Bella used to sit; Gertrude (the mother of them all) and Kudra (the first begonia Shelby ever gave me). They were clipped with the expectation of being planted with ashes and fur so that Bella would always be alive in our home, no matter where we were physically located.

All of our begonias are named. All of our begonias are female.

It just feels right. It feels like she is home where she belongs. I am aware that she is not, that I have a pretty box sitting on the table that may or may not contain our Bella and only our Bella. But for the first night, I didn’t have nightmares. For the first morning, I made it out the door to work without tears. She is finally and peacefully at rest surrounded by begonia flowers and those that love her.



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