Thursday, September 3, 2009

Kitty Kismet

Those of you who have been following my blog/facebook/twitter posts know that Ron and I put our old orange tabby cat, Finnegan, to sleep on Tuesday. It was the right decision, though it is never an easy one to see through.

As I mentioned in my last post, this cat has been with me since I was in my early 20s and has gotten me through break-ups, bad jobs, moves, family problems, money worries, unmedicated depression and more. Some days I wonder if I would have made it through my 20s, not to mention my 30s and into my 40s, without that fuzzy guy. I even gave up my engagement ring budget of $3,000 in 2002 to save him when he mysteriously stopped eating. I never once doubted that choice and am happy with my $299 pink sapphire and the extra seven years I got to spend with Mr. Ringie (nicknamed in 1998 for his tail, ironically enough).

Finnegan Francis O'Malley 1990-2009
"Finnegan Francis O'Malley" (1990-2009)

We arrived at our vet's office to some pretty sad faces. Everyone had an attachment to my funny old cat who most had known for ten years. One of the office staff said she had even thought of staying home. While I never forget how much animals touch the lives of their people, I overlook how much they touch the lives of everyone they meet.

We decided to get the paw-print plaque, which meant that we also needed to have a private cremation and would receive the ashes. I am one of those people who completely separates the spirit from the body in my mind, so a box of ashes itself doesn't mean much to me. Not to mention that I had NO idea what to do with a little pine box of "ex kitty" (Heather will get that reference, though precious few others ever will). The staff suggested planting a tree, or scattering them in his favorite outdoor place, none of which really struck me as completely "right," but as Ron pointed out, we'd figure that out when the time came.

Despite all the sadness, I am happy to say that his crossing over was very peaceful. Because of collapsed veins and a need for regular blood tests over the past few months, he had developed a stress response to needles (even acupuncture). Our long-time veterinarian Jodi VanTyne, DVM (who saved his life in 2002 and loved him very much) suggested an oral dosage that, while it would take longer, would let him leave this world without experiencing fear as his last emotion. Ron and I sat with him for a long time, petting him and talking to him. Jodi also joined us at our request, petting and talking to him. When it was clear that he was no longer aware of his surroundings, she finally gave him an injection and we all said goodbye. I gave him one last kiss and told him I loved him. Then I went home, cried, slept, started work on some memorial pieces and read all the wonderful comments & notes people left about my boy, all of which helps more than any of you could ever know.
coming along
Memorial pieces to work through
the grief of losing my 19 year old cat, Finnegan

Tuesday night, the fog of stress which had permeated the house for the last month lifted, and both kitties (Mouse and Gracie) and the dog slept in bed with us last night - totally incident-free.

Yesterday, my mind wandered back to Finnegan's ashes and what to do with them while I was talking to Allyson at the gym (aside: many of you may not know this, but personal trainers are kinda like bartenders or hairdressers -that is, psychologists/therapists-  who beat your ass silly for money). I was just thinking out loud that I didn't really want to bury him in the back yard of this house, since Ron and I don't want to stay here for more than five years (we have dreams of a bit more space around our home than 10 feet in each direction). As far as scattering his ashes somewhere he loved ... well, his favorite place for the last two decades has been sitting on my chest while I lie in bed, his paws on my face. Following a train of thought, I supposed I could put some of the ashes in a little vial and hang it from a chain so I could have Finnegan on my chest, near my heart, whenever I wanted...

And that is when I was hit by the obvious solution: A long-time co-worker of Ron's and now artsy-crafty friend of mine, Jim Adlhoch, introduced me to his line of hand made glass memorial lampwork beads about a year or so back.

To create a memorial bead, Jim incorporates a few granules of the cremains into the glass, which can take the shape of a focal bead for a pendant or smaller beads for earrings or a bracelet. He also makes some beads with trees on them, in the shape of vessels and that even mimic real stones:

Usually, people tell him what colors or color schemes they want, but as a fellow artist, I told Jim to let the glass tell him what it wanted to be. I gave him some general guidelines - I like dichroic glass and bright jewel colors, pinks or iridescents, but unfortunately don't look good in orange or yellow which were 'Ginnie's colors. I'm becoming pretty fond of the round clear/opaque mix bead to the right of the "vessel" bead in the first picture, but in various shades of pink....

Jim is also making Ron and I one of his beautiful "vortex" marbles and will be incorporating some of Finnegan's cremains in there as well. I told him Ron's and my favorite colors, and that Finnegan had greenish gold eyes with orange fur. We shall see what the glass says to him....

I love that we will be able to look at two beautiful works of art, made just for us, and remember all the wonderful things that Finnegan brought to our lives. Of course, when this project is all finished, I will be certain to post photos of our pieces, so stay tuned.

If you would like to have one of these memorial pieces, or just a pretty piece of handmade art glass, drop Jim a line (and tell him Skelekitty sent ya).

Jim Adlhoch
Woodland Hills, CA