I had a surreal day yesterday. I had a dead rabbit in my kitchen first thing in the morning, held in the arms of a distraught little boy. Horrified, I wrenched the carcass from Mac’s arms and checked for signs of fox attack. Nothing. But she was cold. “Why mummy?” he wailed, wrestling the rabbit from me. Mac found her when he took her her morning carrot “lying on her bed all stiff”. It seems that Jessica Rabbit carked it of natural causes. My boy was inconsolable and demanded that he report the sad news to his father immediately. Still clutching the deceased bunny he waited as I dialled David’s mobile and jutted his chin out manfully as he waited for his father to answer.
David told me, in a later conversation, that it was extremely hard to discuss Jessica’s demise and subsequent funeral (my boy wants to give her full honours) on a packed train full of pinstriped City gents who were all wittering about the FTSE and “staying at Barky Thompson’s for the weekend, what?”.
There was no question of my boy going to nursery – he was sobbing and clutching onto Jessica. He’s never experienced death before – I’ve sheltered him from family deaths on the grounds that he was either too young or it’ll be too upsetting - and another “he’s growing up” moment began. I explained that sometimes animals die for no reason, other than it’s simply their time to die. Really, David is better at these kind of conversations.
He seemed to accept this and asked me to find a box to put her in. “We’ll have the fooynerawl this afternoon” he said bravely as he laid her gently in a box and added a blanket “in case she gets cold”, a carrot “because she hasn’t had breakfast” and her ball “to keep her company”. All this with a rigid back and a determined expression. I started welling up and had to stick my head in a cupboard until the tears dispersed.
He then set about drawing a picture, the dead rabbit in a box at his side. The dogs started taking an interest in the contents of the box which worried me somewhat. Charlie rang for a chat and Mac commandeered the phone and told her all about it. He invited her to the funeral which was to be 5pm in our garden. As ever, Charlie stunned me by accepting the invitation as if this sort of thing were something she were used to. Saskia did the same when I told her, almost embarrassed about the morbid task ahead of us. She said she’d be there. “I love Auntie Charlie and Auntie Saskie” Mac said as he dropped the picture of Jessica as an angel into the box. His Godmothers had come up trumps – as always.
Fearful of the dogs getting hold of the gruesome cargo I convinced Mac that Jessica should be put back into her hutch, in the box, almost like a Chapel of Rest. Once I had explained what a Chapel of Rest was, he embraced this idea wholeheartedly and we had a mini ceremony. Jack Next Door was mowing the lawn and took the news of Jessica’s demise in his stride. “She’s gone to a better place lad” he said reverentially, taking his cap off as a gesture of respect. As Mac went back into the house, Jack told me he’d make a “proper wooden box – don’t want the foxes getting her” and offered his services as grave digger. Lydia arrived at lunch time (I’d completely forgotten she was coming) and helped Mac put together a framed montage of pictures of Jessica after phoning Matthew who promised to be here at 5pm.
The whole thing was spiralling. There would be 8 people at this funeral. What’s the protocol? Should I be buttering bread for sandwiches? When I was a child I had four pets – a goldfish, a budgie, a dog and a cat. One followed the other as the other died. When Goldie died she was flushed down the loo and I had nightmares for a week. When Pepe the budgie died (a tragic accident, he flew into a window believing it to be open and plummeted to the ground like a lead balloon) he was wrapped in newspaper and put out for the bin men. Whiskey the dog was left at the vets and Cindy the cat went away to die. I’ve not handled a pet funeral before and was beginning to feel woefully inept and not up to the task. I rang the girls and asked them to bring food. “Will you say a prayer mummy?” he asked me as he pushed pasta around his plate. “and can we sing a song?”.
At half past four Jack arrived with a sturdy box and we decanted Jessica and her keepsakes into it. Charlie and Saskia arrived together with a selection of M&S nibbles, carrots and humous and sandwiches along with a bottle of non alcoholic pink fizz “to toast Jessica’s life” Saskia said as she hugged Mac to her. Matthew had agreed to pick David up from work “a family emergency” David had said as he shot out of the office at 4pm. “Bloody hell” he said now as he took in the scene before him.
All three dogs had black bows tied around their necks (Lydia’s idea), Saskia was moaning about the oven and cutting the sandwiches, Jack was in the garden digging the hole under the honeysuckle, Charlie was admiring the Jessica Rabbit montage and I was boggling at how surreal it all was.
We trooped out into the garden and Mac lowered the box into the hole and David led us all in the Lords Prayer - Saskia very nearly got the giggles at this point. Matthew seemed to be very affected by this “he did the same when my hamster Bungle died when I was five” he whispered to me. We didn’t sing a song in the end but we all had a moment “to contemate Jessica’s life”. Mac is that age that he picks up words from others – the Funky Vicar had obviously had a big effect on him on Saturday. Heads bowed, we were all lost in thought. I was thinking, rather uncharitably, that I was glad I didn’t have to clean the hutch out any more. Rabbit poo gets everywhere.
Jack refilled the hole and placed a wooden cross he’d made on it. Mac wandered around the garden picking flowers to place on the grave. Saskia got the giggles again and went into the house to check on the nibbles. My brave boy was the star of the wake. He charmed and shone, polishing off the carrots in memory of Jessica. As the last of the guests left, he asked me what we’d do with Jessica’s hutch now she “was deaded”. I told him that after a suitable amount of time, we’d take it out of the garden. “Or mummy,” he said as I tucked him into bed “we could go and get ‘nother rabbit to fill it?”
Something tells me that he’s getting over his loss.