There was a death in Hayes House last summer. We had two guinea pigs; Holly and Willow, and unfortunately Willow fell victim to some mysterious guinea pig illness. She was poorly for a day or so when she very suddenly deteriorated. I was pretty sure that she would have to be put down so we sat the girls down and explained that we didn't think Willow was going to get better and that we thought the vet would probably have to put her to sleep. We explained to two very tearful girls that it was the kindest thing to do as Willow was very sick.
They each held her wrapped in her towel and said their goodbyes. There's nothing worse than seeing your children hurting like this and feeling powerless to take the pain away, but when I gently took Willow from them and placed her in a box the girls they threw their arms around each other in the most dramatic fashion and wailed like a pair of bereft animals. A split-second enquiring glance passed between Stig and I.
Stig took Willow to the vet and as expected he came back with her little body in her cardboard box, which caused even more trauma to the already emotional girls. Again they wanted to stroke Willow in the box and say goodbye. By this point Willow was starting to feel a little firm as rigor set in. Another look passed between Stig and I and I knew that despite myself my initial wave of sympathy at the girl's distress was beginning to be tinged with amusement, which I did my best to ignore. Have you ever been in a situation where the most inappropriate thing to do is laugh, but it only makes the urge to do it worse?
Despite the trauma Willow's death was rather timely as we were just about to lay some flags in the garden. The girls made a cross with messages of love and "Rest in Peace" written on it. Stig and I dutifully oversaw proceedings with the required sombriety. Stig dug a hole and both of the girls wanted to lay Willow to rest so they decided to lower her into the ground together.
Except they weren't exactly in sync and they dropped a now rock-solid Willow, who obligingly landed face down, ass up in the bottom of the hole. At which point the flinging of arms and wailing commenced once more, and it was all I could do to stifle a laugh-snort. I was barely holding it together when I made the mistake of looking at Stig, he had turned his back and I could see definite shaking of the shoulders as he made a deliberate coughing noise.
We struggled through the next ten minutes or so of the girls taking turns to step to the "graveside" to throw in a handful of earth over poor Willow's presented arse. Further sporadic wailing followed as stig filled the hole in and placed the cross at the "head" of the hole in the ground. There followed a further period of graveside reflection during which Stig and I struggled not to succumb to the giggles.
Funerals are not an occasion of mirth but to have the most serious of proceedings for a guinea pig who will forever rest with her little furry butt in the air was too much to take seriously. When it was finally all over I had to spend a good ten minutes in my room with my face firmly wedged in a pillow to absorb the sound of my laughter before I could compose myself.
I can only conclude that we'd be no good in a pet cemetery, probably be banned for life in fact.