thank you for showing respect by reading Rebecca's pages
"To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die." .... Harold Robbins
This is written for people who are compassionate and understanding. It may be horrifying to some people, but I certainly hope not, and don't mean for it to be.
Rebecca and I never had any children. We owned many German Shepherds and Shelties during the 34 years we have been together.
Through the last twenty years or more, Rebecca and I have had our own family tradition. When one of our dogs dies, we have always been the last one to touch the dog before he or she is cremated.
With two exceptions, when our dogs died during surgery, we have injected our dogs with a euthanasia solution. We have always felt this was our own responsibility, and done this ourselves. We wanted our dog's last minutes to happen in his own home, his own surroundings, with his own family and pack, not in a vet's office, in strange surroundings, with strangers nearby. It may not make sense to those that read this, but it was our family tradition, and this was what we did.
We learned, through the first cremation, exactly what procedures must be followed. In the beginning, we followed directions, but refused any help or participation from anyone else. We always believed this was a very personal, private, and respectful way to deal with the loss of one of our family members, and we accepted that responsibility. After the first two or three, the woman who owns the pet crematorium simply left us alone to perform the work which we had to do.
Years before Rebecca died, she promised she would cremate me if I died first, and I promised the same. Several weeks before Rebecca died, we discussed this again. I gave Rebecca my solemn oath that I would never allow anyone else to touch her, and that I would perform her cremation myself, with all the love, dignity, and respect I'm capable of.
Unlike our dogs, there are state laws pertaining to a human. It was slightly difficult to locate an agreeable funeral director, one who would allow me to do what our personal tradition called for. I did locate the right person, Mr. Lowell. There was considerable discussion about various state laws and licensing regarding individuals who perform cremations. For example, I wanted to transport Rebecca's body from the hospital to the crematorium myself, but that would violate a state law, as I'm not licensed to do that.
Mr. Lowell was very uncertain that I would be able to function in a rational way during Rebecca's cremation, and it was obvious he was concerned and nervous about this. As it turned out, there were no problems.
Rebecca had been transported from the hospital morgue to the cremation facility in a light plastic body bag, inside a cardboard carton. Her carton was on a shelf in a cold storage room. I used an electric cart device, which raises and lowers, and slid her carton onto the cart.
I asked for a few minutes so I could hold and kiss Rebecca for the last time. Everyone was very considerate, for which I am very grateful. Rebecca looked beautiful to me, although she was no longer alive. I whispered many things to her. I'll always remember those last minutes.
The owner of the facility instructed me how to open and close the crematorium door, and set the temperature and timers, which I did. I rolled Rebecca's carton into the crematorium, closed the door, and pressed "start". Then I sat and cried.
Approximately 75 minutes later, I partially opened the door, and, wearing asbestos gloves, used a long stainless steel rod to move the parts of Rebecca's skeleton which had not completely cremated. I then closed the door and started the crematorium again. After another 20 minutes, the crematorium timer shut off, and I opened the door fully, allowing a cool down period of about 30 minutes.
After this wait time, I used a tool resembling a broom on a long stainless steel handle, and moved Rebecca's remains all the way to the very rear of the crematorium, where there was a small side access door and a stainless steel tray, which I had scrubbed earlier, to pull her remains into. I carefully moved Rebecca's remains into the tray, then repeated the broom and move process two or three more times. Then I took the tray into the cold storage room to let Rebecca's remains cool for approximately 30 minutes.
While they cooled, I washed and scrubbed the machine which pulverizes and grinds her remains down to tiny ashes and dust. Prior to using the machine, I searched through Rebecca's remains in the tray, and removed her chemotherapy implant port and the metal snaps from her hospital gown. Then I carefully placed Rebecca's remains into the clean stainless steel bucket, which is the chamber for the pulverizer. I sealed the lid closed, and turned it on for four minutes.
Immediately, there was a loud "thump" from within the stainless bucket. I thought I could relieve the tension in the other people, so I said, "I knew Bec would have something to say about all this." They laughed, and seemed to relax a little.
After four minutes, I removed Rebecca's ashes into a plastic bag, which I sealed. Rebecca's ashes are now inside a temporary urn which was given to me by the woman who owns the pet crematorium which we have gone to for twenty years. (please see Rebecca's Urn page)
Our family tradition dictates that when I die, I will be cremated with Rebecca's ashes, as well as all of our dog's ashes, all at the same time.
Our entire family will be together again. Ashes and dust.
I didn't break down or collapse during Rebecca's cremation. I waited until I brought Rebecca home.
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