The spot I had chosen for Finn overlooked Pimmit Run, a creek where he loved to walk and swim. Beside it was a wild raspberry bush. He’d been down to the creek very rarely over the past year because he was too arthritic to cross it, slipping awkwardly on the same rocks he used to skip over.
There was something elemental about digging Finn’s grave, a way of forcing myself to accept the reality of his going. It was on a wooded slope and the ground was tough – full of tree roots and rocks. I knew I needed to go down at least three feet. Before long, sweat was pouring off me and tears were streaming down my face.
Finn was still lying in the same place in the hall when I came in. I fetched the toy elephant I’d bought for him in Belfast the day I got him, and placed it under his head.
That evening, my wife Cheryl and I explained to Tessa, five, and Miles, three, that Finn was about to depart. Tessa thought for few moments and then said sadly: ‘So I guess there’s going to be just four of us for a while.’ The children drew pictures of all five of the family for Finn, to be buried with him so he could be reminded of us.