I didn’t really even notice him enter the lobby. Lucy kept me distracted, dancing at my feet and whining her protest in hopes of convincing me that the impending nail trim was unnecessary. I believe it was his posture, his body language that pulled my attention his way. As he shuffled towards the receptionist’s desk, he gently cradled a rectangular, decorative tin container against the warmth of his flannel shirt. At the end of his long journey to the desk, his hands, misshapen by the years and curled with arthritis, gently placed the tin in front of the receptionist.
The technician came to gather an indignant Chihuahua from me, and my concentration switched from the developing scene at the desk to trying to convince Lucy that to acquiesce would be in everyone’s best interest. As my attentions returned to the gentleman, it appeared as though there had been some confusion on the part of the receptionist as to what he needed, but confusion quickly transitioned into melancholy silence as she retrieved something from the desk across the way.
She returned with a round silver tin in her hands. Matching his gentle lead, she placed it softly up on the counter next to the one he had yet to allow his hands to part from. He asked that she grant him a moment to turn away. Movements slowed under the heavy weight of sorrow, he turned so he was no longer facing the side-by-side canisters. She delicately removed a small plastic bag of ashes from the silver tin, and placed them into the other.
Several seconds passed, both he and the receptionist unsure as to what the proper protocol was in such a situation. He wore dark glasses, so as to keep his heartache a private matter. His hands returned to rest on the tin’s lid, an awkward attempt to find comfort in again being close to his companion. His chin began to quiver faintly, which he used as a personal cue to gather the tin against his flannel shirt once again, and make the slow journey back to his car.
I wanted so very much to provide him with whatever words of comfort I could offer, but did not want to intrude on his intimate moment. I wanted to tell him how very sorry I was for his loss, how I understood his pain. I wanted to tell him that I had been the recipient of animals’ ashes in the past, and he will find peace by having them still with him. I wanted to tell him that there are times that I connect so closely with my dogs that my heart aches from the happiness I experience. I wanted to tell him that his friend knew the love he had for him, and that he had provided his pet with a full and contented life.
After he left the lobby, the receptionist told me that the animal had been a very elderly Chihuahua, and had passed away at home.
As the technician brought Lucy back out from having her nail trim, I felt that same pain of happiness in my heart as she took her place at my side.