Frankileh’s Ashes: A Thanksgivikkuh Meditation

The Menurkey -- a turkey menorah. I'm sorry I didn't get it together to buy one.

The Menurkey — a turkey menorah. I’m sorry I didn’t get it together to buy one in time. You can still get yours at Menurkey.com

I’m spending Thanksgivukkah with Frankie. Which is a little crazy-making.

It’s not the multi-cultural, multi-prepared feast itself that is mind-scrambling: turkey from Brushfire BBQ, latkes from Trader Joe’s, cranberry and turkey tamales from Tucson Tamale company, pumpkin bread pudding baked by my friend Rebecca, to name just a few of the meal’s highlights. I’m sure the conversation — and some of the spirits that lubricate it — will be sparkling.

It’s that the feast will be held at my friend John’s house, where Frankie’s ashes are currently residing because I couldn’t bear to pick them up from the funeral home.

The anger phase of grief

I HATE that Frankie had to die.

Damn death.  And, especially, damn its aftermath, the physical detritus that’s not your loved one but that reminds you of what you lost — and that you have to deal with, whether you want to or not.

The decision to not deal with it is still a decision.

I wrote a few weeks ago that I wasn’t experiencing the type of grief that I was expecting to feel over Frankie’s passing. Well, I found a touchstone for that grief, a button to push to unleash the torrent of pain and tears: The thought of Frankie’s ashes.

I’ve discovered that every last bit of his DNA — from the diabetes test strip he peed on to the saliva-rich squeaky carrot he held in his mouth — is precious to me. Others have expressed similar sentiments on Facebook. Knowing that people held off cleaning everything from hair to blood spatters and snot from their departed dogs made me feel better about not wanting to remove that last little piece of Frankie poop from the back yard.

That’s all evidence of life. Ashes say nothing to me but loss. And anger. They bring back my mother’s death, and the fight over a cremation that she requested because “it was good enough for her parents” — a Holocaust/crematorium reference — and that other family members refused to honor because it went against their religion.

Don’t get me started.

The grief phase of grief

This has been a terrible week. It rained for two days straight. I woke up Saturday morning to a thud: A chunk of the roof/ceiling had fallen to the floor.

Clearly I wasn’t the wasn’t the only one this had happened to — we don’t deal well with rain in the desert — so on Monday every roofer in Tucson was busy looking at roofs. And no doubt raising their rates. The first person who came to do an estimate said it would cost $4,400 — just for patches.

Then I was turned down for a grant that I hadn’t realized I’d been really really depending on to write a book on my family history.

I have been grief eating so now I feel fat as well as stupid — and broke.

I know Frankie wasn’t always able to bring me out of my black moods, especially at the end when I counted him as one of my worries. But not having my furry best friend here, in any form, makes this all seem more unbearable.

What I am thankful for

I could never be accused of looking for a silver lining in grey clouds (I just realized that I don’t have a clue of what that means, meteorologically speaking. How can clouds be lined? In silver?). It’s not my nature. I tend to look for the lemons in the lemonade (a metaphor I do understand).

But it would be churlish — not to mention foolish, because of the comfort I’ve derived from them — not to express gratitude for the many kindnesses that others have offered. The wake that my friend Cynthia held for Frankie and all the friends who showed up to offer support. The wonderful Frankie art from AJ Emm and from my niece Rebecca. And all the nonartistic but heartfelt expressions of love and support that I’ve gotten from this community, here and on Facebook.

I’m thankful that most people — though, sadly, not all — have forgiven me for bad behavior I manifested under Frankie-inspired duress and grief.

I’m thankful that John is a good enough friend to take Frankie’s ashes home with him and to put up with the vagaries of my reactions to them — one minute being able to joke about Frankie not being allowed on the couch, another bursting into tears at the idea of Frankie being left alone when John goes out of town for a few months. I might have to bring the ashes back to my home before then.

I’m thankful that my friend Rebecca, who is not Jewish, is making sweet noodle kugel for me for Thanksgivukkah. I might regret some of the grief eating I’ve done because of low quality of the calories, but I will never regret a sweet kugel made in friendship.

 

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16 Comments

  1. Posted November 27, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    I’m so sorry it has been such a rough week for you in so many ways and I am sorry to hear you did not receive the grant you were hoping for. Once you are feeling better I am sure there will be more opportunities to seek out but since it is a holiday, I hope you are able to relax and allow yourself some time to feel what you need to feel.

    I second your damnation of death and am thinking of you.
    Kristine recently posted..Trusting the Canine InstinctMy Profile

  2. Posted November 27, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Hugs on the holiday from us to you.
    Champion of My Heart recently posted..Monitoring the Miracle of LillyMy Profile

  3. Posted November 27, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    It is wonderful to have supportive friends — holidays are really hard. Sending my heartfelt and healing love & hugs.
    Mary Haight recently posted..Service Dogs for Veterans — Dealing With The NumbersMy Profile

  4. Posted November 27, 2013 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    So unfair you can’t catch a break, and got more bad news. Thankfully you have such great friends in real life. I couldn’t even imagine how I could, or would, cope without the support of Kenzo and my wife. Sending love and good thoughts, Edie.
    kenzohw recently posted..Tour de Viva with a Clumsy CasanovaMy Profile

  5. Posted November 27, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    So sorry to hear about the roof and the grant. It seems unfair that so many things would hit you right at the same time. Though, it makes me think of the dream you had recently … perhaps there is a spectacular opportunity heading your way and the Universe is lining things up because life is taking you in a different direction. I hope you have a lovely holiday and things start looking brighter soon.
    Amy@GoPetFriendly recently posted..Sight Seeing In Dog Friendly Salt Lake CityMy Profile

  6. Posted November 27, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    After Painter greyhound died, my friend Cynthia who also is not Jewish (your friend too) brought me kugel. It was a heartwarming gesture I will never forget 7 years after the fact. Jewish comfort food. Sometimes you just have to go with grief eating.
    karyn zoldan recently posted..Tucson: Cruelty-Free Friday at La EncantadaMy Profile

  7. Rebecca Boren
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    The calories in this kugel promise they will be very high quality.

  8. Rebecca Boren
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    One of grief’s nasty little tricks is that you never know until you get there which emotional landmines are going to explode as you are walking innocently along, coping. There’s also no telling what might prove a source of comfort. I have never been even faintly sentimental about mortal remains, human or canine. But after I lost my beloved fox terror Teddy to lymphoma, I slept with his ashes for months. I think what you can deal with and what gives you comfort are areas where you deserve to cut yourself ample slack (shy of Miss Havisham equivalents). And remember, it’s only been a month.

  9. Posted November 28, 2013 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Your honest words tug at my heart. Frankie may not be with you, but his memory is cherished, and as long as he is remembered, he will never truly be gone. His spirit lives on in every life you touch and in every word that you write that teaches and inspires others. I am sorry for your losses. This Thanksgiving may be tough, but you will feel better one day soon. Frankie is looking down on you now, filled with gratitude for the life that you two shared. I am grateful to even be acquainted with you, Edie. Try to smile and imagine a healthy, spry Frankie chasing turkeys in Heaven. — Molly

  10. Sharon
    Posted November 28, 2013 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Thinking of you ….I know it sounds cliched but time helps….as does allowing yourself to grieve…
    You will never forget Frankie but the pain becomes different….and you learn to move forward….
    After all…what choice do we have.?
    Enjoy being with your friends…..
    Love, sha

  11. Posted November 28, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Oh, Edie, what a month. It’s been a bad one for you with all that’s happened, and it’s often confusing as to what to feel. Emotions change, ups and downs. This time, with the roof and no grant, plus all the other stuff, it’ makes it harder. You are coping much better than anyone else I know. Thinking of you and hoping that next year will start to turn things around in a big way.

    Hugs and love on this Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.

    h

  12. Marilyn Sutin
    Posted November 28, 2013 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Thinking of you and your love for Frankie. Never, never have I thought you’d feel so strongly….you will never forget him but you will, after time, heal.
    Love,
    M

  13. Posted November 29, 2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Oh Edie. I so get not wanting to pick up Frankie’s ashes. I don’t hang out on Facebook much anymore so I’ve missed all the condolences and shared experiences. So I’ll share one of my own in this space. I refused to allow Ira or our house cleaner to vacuum the carpet for at least two months after Sarah died. At first I wasn’t sure what my seemingly irrational reaction was about and then I realized bits and pieces of her from tufts of fur to crumbs from her favorite cookies were were embedded in the carpet. I just wasn’t ready to let go. I’m so glad you have wonderful friends to support and surround you.
    Deborah Flick recently posted..Interview with Alexandra HorowitzMy Profile

  14. Posted November 29, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Sorry your grant didn’t come through. I’m praying that it means something better is in store for you. And I know how frustrating it can be to have emergency home repairs draining the wallet. But it WILL get better.

    I understand how you feel about Frankie’s ashes. I had to pick up my poodle’ s ashes from the vet and figure out what to do with them. Every time I saw the little treasure-chest-type container they were sealed in, I would start to cry all over again. I finally had to put them in a desk drawer where I wouldn’t see them constantly. It took me nearly a year before I could look at that container without crying every time. I still choke-up now and then, even though it’s been nearly 10 years. Time makes it easier to deal with the loss, the heartache, but sometimes it still tugs at my heart strings. But my little girl is always with me in my heart. Sending hugs and calm energy.
    Ducky’s Mom recently posted..Gratitude is an AttitudeMy Profile

  15. Posted November 29, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Wow, so much happening in and around you.

    I can only wish you moments of quiet joy, whether it’s a good friend who makes you kugel or virtual hugs you get from all over the world.
    Pamela recently posted..From One Holiday to the Next – Follow Up FridayMy Profile

  16. Posted November 29, 2013 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    This post helped me this evening to remember to be more empathetic with my partner who suffered a number of losses this last year. And I found this post refreshingly helpful in letting go of guilt about feeling grief, so, thank you.
    Diane Schmidt recently posted..In my backyard nowMy Profile

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