Our dear hamster Daisy, who joined our family over two years ago, has finally kicked the bucket. It's a mercy to her (I've lost count of how many narrow escapes she's had with the cat and dog), but of course there had to be due process in the household.
Anaya discovered her cold little body during worship, which is a customary time for someone to pop open the cage and play with her. "Mommy!" Daisy's dead!" she cried, holding up the still form. Everyone rushed to her side.
"Yes, she's dead," I agreed, after a brief examination. "I'm sorry." There was a brief outburst of grief from Anaya, while four other sober little faces gazed down toward the furry little body, stroking her and taking turns holding her. It appeared that Daisy had gone to her eternal rest mid-stride, her one good eye still wide open (she lost the other one during one of her many narrow escapes, this one in the dog's jaws) and her mouth still full.
We resumed worship, with Seth holding Daisy, alternately peering into her little face and trying vainly to warm her up. (I decided to let him grieve his own way and let it go.) Jonathan got busy folding and decorating a paper coffin, while Hannah drew a picture to go on top of the coffin. Anaya busied herself writing the program, and announced after worship that she would be doing the funeral sermon.
We gathered outside beside the front flower bed, our customary graveyard for the assortment of birds, shrews, hamsters, baby rabbits and other flora and fauna that needs burying around here (mostly due to Zinnia's sharp teeth). Everyone took turns digging the grave, yanking weeds, and examining worms, bugs and slugs in the vicinity. (One worm made it down the back of Hannah's shirt, via Jonathan's hands--so much for reverent sorrow.)
Anaya solemnly instructed everyone to drop a pinch of the violets Hannah had thoughtfully gathered, and then the little paper coffin was lowered and more violets sprinkled. The program Anaya had written out was carefully followed, until she laid it in the tomb, announcing that Hannah was to return the dirt to the hole while I inscribed the gravestone. I wrote what seemed most appropriate to me: "Daisy: Finally at Peace."
When the grave was filled, and the stone had been lugged over and put in place (it's wise to cover graves with stones in this yard), everyone assembled in a motley
crowd around the hole, following Anaya's orders. "Oh! We need
the other animals!" she shouted suddenly, dashing into the house despite
my protests. "It's not often that a funeral has someone in attendance
who really wishes they could have eaten the deceased," I muttered to
Hannah, who was still chortling with me over this phenomenon when Anaya
emerged from the house with the reluctant cat in her arms.
Zulu thoughtfully sat down for the final prayer. "I'm folding her hands," Hannah announced, trying vainly to get Zulu's paws to cross. Skyler offered the final prayer, finishing with an appeal that no more of our animals die, and that we all get to heaven soon. He beamed at me from his position beside the dog after prayer, assuring me, "I closed Zulu's eyes."
So, despite my lack of credentials, it appears I can successfully preside over hamster funerals, at least. But if anyone hears me talking about getting another one, just do the world a favor and report me to PETA.