After we were given approval by the insurance company and clean up began in earnest some bits and pieces of our lives before the fire made themselves apparent in ways that I can only describe as signs. As in I felt we were given signs of where to search for items of value hidden within and under all of the rubble. Were they from a higher power? This I don't know. Were they merely coincidence? Of course, that's a possibility as well.
Where do you start cleaning something like this up? We started with gathering all of the metals and sorted them before hauling them away. The easiest thing to have happened next would to have been to bulldoze it all on top of itself and call it a day. That idea just didn't feel right, at least not at this point. I made the decision that I would sort through all the areas that I could. The fire and water to put the fire out compromised two areas--the long excavated basement wall that was part of the two bedrooms in the basement and the wall by the staircase that connected the basement to the first floor. These walls had caved in and were dangerous to search in. All other areas within the house were covered in a thick layer of ash, debris, charred wood, etc.
Room by room I sifted through the bits. The china cabinet that was on the first floor and now scattered on the basement floor held items that I had inherited from my father, a reverend in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. I had hopes of at least finding his crosses that were made of metal and perhaps some other small trinkets. I did not realize that here I would be given the first of signs.
While digging through the area shown above part of a small plate caught my eye, probably because of the cats on it. So, I started digging a little deeper and this was were I found my first set of remains of one of my cats. All that was left was bones, the long bones of the leg along with some ribs. It was then and there that I realized that my mission now included searching for them. The fire burned incredibly hot and the things I was hearing from people was that there would be no parts of any of the cats left. Apparently, this was not true and now I knew I had to find them.
Within a few feet of the first set of remains I found my second set, again not complete. The bones I kept protected and safe. The remaining area was searched and bits of metal, fused glass and bits of pottery salvaged and then I was on to the next room.
The bedroom held nothing besides bits of metal and it wasn't until I was in the second bedroom that the next sign appeared. It was the remains of a partially burned book and when I picked up this mound of paper I opened it up to the page below. Its hard to see but is the haunting image of a cat staring directly at the viewer. The area surrounding this book held yet another set of remains.
During the preliminary basic search I had pulled this ceramic cat from the debris. I was really amazed at the condition that I found it in. Its fully intact while items of a similar nature just didn't make it without at least cracking. This was really surprising considering that it used to sit on the first floor next to the wood stove and now its on the basement floor. You can see the fallen broken brick and block on the ground that I found it next to. The cat was originally white glaze now an aged gray charred patina covers it. Once I returned to this area for a more thorough search I found my last set of bones bringing that total found within the house debris to four. Two additional cats were found in my workshop area and another on the ground floor under a wall that the firefighters had pulled down while trying to contain the blaze that night. Finding those two was especially painful in that they were mostly intact.
Of the nine cats that we shared our lives with six were found. All of the remains were then taken for cremation so they would all be together. I was given guidance by a friend who told me that for the cats that I could not find to include a bit of ash as a symbolic remembrance.
The ashes were given to me in box covered with paw prints while the gray cat looks on. The stuffed horsie was a gift from Lupina, a German Sheppard friend with a heart of gold. I don't know if she realized how much comfort holding the soft furry horse brought me while I was remembering my lost loved furkids. The cremains, the ceramic cat and the horse all remain together now that we've moved into our new place and have found a safe place in the kitchen where I visit them everyday.