You're Making What?
Sophie passed away on July 31st. As I held her in my arms, I began searching for urns that would pay tribute to her beauty and individuality, and I didn’t set a price filter because I figured I’d find something expensive anyway. She was worth it.
I started the grief process several months before my dad died, probably because I knew that it was coming one way or another. We were on Plan D with his treatment plan, and I knew the side effects were getting the best of him. He deteriorated over several months and his quality of life was blatantly diminishing before our eyes. But we kept on going until we couldn’t anymore, and that gave us some closure. We knew, and he knew. And we could really BE there for him. None of it was easy, and every bit of it was an entirely new level of devastation for me.
Sophie was different. We were mentally on a path toward healing and victory against melanoma (our oncologist, too!), so when we found out that she was actively and rapidly dying, we were stunned. We didn’t have the chance to grieve ahead of time because we thought we were making progress, and she appeared to be doing well. I wasn’t ready for that kind of grief. I wasn’t ready to accept that I had missed the signs of her demise during the past few months, and that I had missed opportunities to make her comfortable…to reduce her suffering. To tell her how much I love her and how much she changed my life in ways I would never be able to thank her for. I was fortunate to have the chance to tell my dad.
Death is never easy. It’s never peaceful, and it’s never “time”. It’s just inevitable. And shitty. And devastating.
How do I find an urn to hold the ashes of a dog who unknowingly and selflessly changed my life’s course, opened my heart and mind, motivated me to learn SO. MANY. NEW. THINGS.?
I decided that I needed to make her urn. I needed to be the one to take time and effort and learn a new skill to honor her life. Nothing would ever be good enough to carry her unless it was absolutely, undoubtably, one-of-a-kind.
And so began my weird quest to find someone to teach me how to do this, because I have zero fucking clue about pottery and creating urns. Zero. I asked around for several weeks, and I heard various (predictable and understandable) responses: “We can commission someone to make it, but it will be anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Sorry.” or “We don’t teach classes, but we may have someone who may be willing to teach you. Sorry.” I know, it’s a really weird request, but you never know until you try. Still, I didn’t give up, because I would never do that to Sophie. I was willing to take a semester of Pottery at SWIC if necessary.
I asked so many people. Anyone who would listen. And finally, I had someone willing to help me. One of my favorite customers (she is just as animal-obsessed as I am and she understands my visceral need to honor my loved ones) has a neighbor who is artsy and “he may know someone who can help you”. She also had a Plan B for me, which would have been taking classes on base at the Arts Center where her neighbor was involved with. She asked and she coordinated, and I ended up meeting with an incredible, loving woman who was capable of teaching my hard-headed self. You have to have Saint-like patience if you’re going to teach me something completely new, and this woman has it.
She asked me all about Sophie, and began sketching ideas and helping me think out loud about what I’d like to create. Through one-on-one sessions, she helped me create Sophie’s urn by hand, and she allowed me to do so in the most therapeutic way: learning a new skill while getting to ask as many nerdy questions as possible during our two-hour sessions. She helped me sculpt an actual Sophie figurine and she even helped paint the most perfect expression on her face: the classic “eye-roll”. We drank coffee out of mugs made by my customer’s artsy (and talented!) neighbor in the late afternoon, and we got to know each other…learning that we have a lot more in common than we thought!
The end result couldn’t be more perfect. I couldn’t have paid someone a million dollars to make what we made and to have that much love and feeling entwined with clay. For a few Monday afternoons, I got to dedicate all of my time to Sophie, and that was priceless. I made a new friend, and I learned a new skill. I also developed an immense appreciation for potters because DAMN that ain’t easy. And it takes forever. But it’s worth it because I made it. I didn’t order it online or in a cremains catalogue, I MADE it.
I am so, SO grateful for everyone who helped me along the way, and I wish I could explain how much their love and kindness allowed me to effectively grieve for my beloved Sophie. Creating her urn has given me closure of a different kind, because it allowed me to pay one last tribute….to say thank you one more time….to show her how much I love and adore her.