So I find myself in a dark quiet parking lot of a funeral parlor near midnight. The only sound is the wind in the trees and the traffic in the distance as the business of living is conducted nearby. But we are not in the business of the living, we are in the business of the dead.
I am not without trepidation. This is the place that cremated Bob. That cremated Boomer. And Zenith. It's the go-to cremation center of the area. And so familiar to me at the worst time of my life when I frequented it so often I felt they should offer me a frequent flyer discount.
I am not alone. Hillary is with me. She is the one who summoned me to this dark parking lot near the witching hour to help her with a grim task.
She has the passcode and unlocks the overhead door, which rolls up soundlessly and an automatic light switches on, flooding the parking lot with a dim glow. Inside the garage, a shiny black hearse rests waiting for its next gloomy call to service. Beside the hearse, a freezer chest, white, the kind you might find in a deer hunter's garage. Next to the chest, two dead (I kid you not) potted palms -- a fitting decoration for a funeral parlor -- I guess.
In the back seat of Hillary's van is the purpose of our midnight task. The body of behemoth of a dog. Great Dane, 135 lbs. I must say, he was really hard to look at. Reallly, a handsome boy, a beautiful dog when alive. And I have always loved a Great Dane, since Boomer was part-Great Dane. The dog had bone cancer and Hillary, sadly, had to euthanize him earlier that evening and was now in the perplexing situation of lifting 135 lbs. of dead (literally) weight out of her vehicle and into that freezer chest.
Since the funeral parlor is closed, and no one is around, I am there to help. What are friends for?
So we try to lift the dog. No easy task. And while we make attempt after futile attempt, shifting the dog this way and that, trying not to drop him or lose him in a slide to the ground -- a police cruiser slows to a stop at the driveway of the parking lot --- most likely wondering who these suspicious characters are and what they are up to at this time of night at a funeral parlor?
Hillary, bless her soul, sees this as an opportunity and hikes over the patrol car and knocks on the window. She asks the police officer (a nice, large man) for assistance. He agrees, pulls the cruiser into the parking lot, lighting up our work area with his headlights and together, the three of us, manage the unmanageable task. Getting the dog first, out of the van, me -- climbing into the front seat, leaning over the back to pick up the head, then slowly lowering him down onto the low riding gurney, then moving the gurney into the garage area (all the while Hilllary freaking out that we might scratch that pristine hearse) and then from the gurney, lifted him back up and sort of gently dumped (for lack of a better term) him into the deep freezer. Then the next perplexing issue of how to get the canvass carrying bag out from under the dog -- the cop suggesting we just pull on one end and whip it out from under him, Hillary protesting "Don't hurt him!" --- to which I answer, "jeepers, he's already dead!"
And finally, mission accomplished. The dog tagged and bagged and paperwork with cremation instructions completed. I said a little prayer before we closed the freezer door....
I will say that my life has certainly become strange since Bob's death....