Death decrees a modicum of respect, tears are expected to fall, grief is normal. Colour has replaced black at funerals but still a brightly coloured dress cannot mask the wearers’ sorrow. When you lose a loved one you expect sadness.
What you don’t expect is Star Wars at the funeral….
Lets start at the beginning shall we.
We went away a fortnight ago, you may have caught some of my postcards to the postman, I believe more are expected to arrive in the next few days. However not all the family made it on the plane. We neglected to get a passport for Maddie which meant she was in charge of keeping the house from burglars and we left a good friend in charge of ensuring Maddie was kept fed and watered.
Maddie was our hamster, feel free to take a break at this moment in time if you noticed I have used the past tense, there is no happy ending to this tale.
I bloody loved that hamster, she was officially twin boy’s but he allowed me to share, she was adorable. She didn’t bite, let the kids handle her, and lulled us all to sleep at night with the rhythmic sound of her turning in her wheel.
We failed her.
We should have got her a passport for Portugal.
Last Saturday whilst sunning myself in the Algarve I received a text from my alarmed hamster sitter.
‘So so sorry – Maddie is loose, I must not have closed the cage properly, I can’t find her in the kids room.’
To be fair it took a brave friend to confess so quickly.
There was nothing we could do, we were thousands of miles away, all we could hope was that Maddie the hamster would be found and quickly.
Sunday passed, no Maddie.
Monday passed, no Maddie.
Tuesday we flew home.
We broke the news to the kids at the airport, ‘Maddie is on an adventure’ we smiled, ‘am sure she is fine’ we said in uncertain tones. The kids looked dubious but went along with the false jollity that we inspired. On the flight home we made up stories about where she could be, the most popular being that she was in the Barbie hot tub after eating at the Barbie table, after pooping in the Barbie loo. No good adventure story happens in our house without a poop factoring in.
We arrived home and didn’t even unpack the car. The children were distracted by the TV, myself and he who helped create them went on a hamster hunt.
The children’s room was like a crime scene, the cage sat on the carpet with small piles of food around it where my friend had tried to encourage Maddie out of hiding. They were still untouched. The skirting boards showed evidence of tiny scratch marks where Maddie had clearly tried to scale the wall, my heart stopped for a moment when I saw little dabs of blood above the scratch marks – perhaps foul play was afoot or had my beloved Maddie shredded her little paws trying to climb to safety?
The curtains had been nibbled, the toy box eaten through, Twin Girls bedding was holey and a few teddies seem to have been torn new holes.
Where was she?
We emptied every drawer, every box, and looked in every corner.
She was not in the hot tub.
I left the room briefly to see the children, I warned them that Maddie may not have survived the adventure.
Then we began the arduous task of removing every teddy from twins girl bed, he who helped create them grimaced every time, fearful of being attacked by a starving hamster or for worry that he would mistakenly grab a cuddly toy which turned out to be a dead rodent.
She wasn’t there.
We looked at the duvet, it was the last remaining spot.
He who helped create them went to shake it out until I screamed ‘no’. Images of flying hamster splattering the wall sprung into my mind and I removed the duvet from his large hands and opened it gently.
There she was, cuddled into a ball, silently still.
I bloody loved that hamster.
I ran to Google to check symptoms of hamster death – clearly being immobile and impervious to touch was not enough proof for me and despite telling my heartbroken son that Maddie had passed over I spent the next three days placing my little friend on a heat mat and cradling her in tea towels just in case she was in a (very) deep hibernation.
I snuggled a dead hamster for three days – that is dedication to your pets.
We had an open casket on the toy box in the dining room where we paid our respects.
Seventy two hours after finding her I accepted she was gone.
Ironically we chose to bury her on the day my girlfriend (the hamster sitter) was round with her three children. I expected there to be tears – instead I got star wars.
My friend’s son had a new build a bear – if you squeezed it it played the Star wars theme tune. This was to be Maddie’s last song.
We tried to wander out silently to the grave side but six children find silence impossible to maintain so instead we walked out singing ‘taking Maddie to the grave, she is gone, gone, gone.’ Everyone had a last cuddle with the now very dead hamster, I tried to ignore how weird this was.
I tried to say a few words but the sodding Star Wars Teddy kept bursting into song, I asked the kids to scatter some soil over the casket but they took the task up rather over enthusiastically and quickly filled in the hole. I managed to somehow prevent BB from diving into the newly dug grave to retrieve the hamster that she doesn’t quite understand is gone.
I closed my eyes for a moment to say goodbye and went I opened them I found myself alone at a grave whilst six kids played football and rounders around me.
It was not a peaceful goodbye, confirms my belief that kids and funerals don’t mix. I have had star wars in my head ever since, whenever I see a light saber I will think of my little brown hamster.
Rest in peace little Maddie.