Yesterday I had a really emotional day, and I think it was because I adopted 3 more hermit crabs on a purposeful whim Sunday evening. I started thinking about Eisenhower, how I lost him in November, and that I didn’t really have a true-to-heart closure. His death was so unexpected. There were a couple of times wherein I was alone yesterday, and I just let the river of tears fall with the sound of my porcelain heart just breaking into pieces. Over the past year, Judaism has really taught me something about life and death, and by writing this, I’m working through some major inner feelings that I’ve just needed to clear for some time now, since they’ve literally been pent up since November of 2018.
Sir Eisenhower officially entered the death process on 11/16/18, the day of my writer’s group dress rehearsal. I had noticed E went into a molt a couple days beforehand; which kind of made me upset, because I really wanted to smuggle him into our second show like I did for our first one. I kept talking to him, telling him to hurry up with the molt, checking on him everyday. He was moving and doing well, until I felt something had turned for the worst on the 16th. So here I am, at dress rehearsal, an absolute mess because I just knew this was not going to be a happy ending.
On the 17th–our performance night–I checked on E before I left home, and I just knew (and again, confirmed what I already knew). Any bit of liveliness was gone, he officially left Earth on the 17th. I was in pure denial. Since I had the performance to worry about, I completely covered up my feelings and buried myself into the work while I was absolutely melting inside. When the show was over, I was still very much in denial, praying he was just in a terrible molt and he would come out of it just like always…but, he didn’t. I didn’t bury him until Thanksgiving….nearly a week later. Other than being in denial that my “emotional peacock” had crossed the rainbow bridge, I had no other reason to wait. And it wasn’t ethical in Jewish standard to wait to bury, but I unintentionally waited for the day of thanks. Thankful he was in my life for 3 years, and we celebrated 3 beautiful birthdays together. Thankful he was my perfect spirit animal. Thankful for all of our moments and memories together.
The other day I wrote an entry about what I regret from this year (talking about overlook of the year for R/H) and the last statement was about E…Sometimes true feelings are revealed unconsciously in the moment…I didn’t even really think about writing it when I wrote it. Then, when I looked at my statement, I was like wait a minute. What? Is that what I’m actually feeling? Ever since that day of losing E, I attached the writer’s group performance along with the tragic moment. And the truth is, since November, I’ve had such a hard time getting back into the groove of creative writing and writing with purpose and for shows and even getting into my own writer’s group… because, mentally and unconsciously, I automatically connect E’s death with our group. So I literally fear the day, or fear something that should be exciting and fun, because of a tragic moment. And, because I also blame myself for his death, and I could have prevented it from happening.
Eisenhower was extremely stubborn (ha, look at who was raising him) and he loved his original home – a smallish green shell with a superman character – the shell that he probably lived in since birth. When he got comfortable enough to the point where I could catch him: I’d see he would change into another shell for a minute, hate it, so he’d go back to his original where he felt safe and comfortable….and trust me, he was a super spoiled crab, so he had all the shells in the world to choose from. He was growing and getting bigger, even more perfect, and his skin/claws/large purple pincher were glowing beautifully. That last time he changed into a bigger shell — I wanted to take his old one out — gut instinct told me to do it but I didn’t. After 3 years, it was really the time for him to take a risk out of his comfort zone and move on to something bigger and better. I didn’t take the shell out, because I didn’t want him to panic and have something happen to him. (You should have seen the way he would act when I cleaned his aquarium out. He was also super OCD and would freak out about me moving things around.)
But, in the end, my fears were realized and I completely blame myself for his death. He had definitely outgrown his original home. We both knew it. I know that he understood when I told him ‘you should really think about moving into a bigger shell, you’re a growing boy’ because that’s when actually started changing shells, even if it were for a few hours at a time. I should have taken the shell out when I had the chance. When he went into the final molt–being too big for the shell–it looked like he had, well, you can imagine how he died. It’s sincerely so tragic to think that I could have prevented this from happening, and I would have been able to celebrate another year and many more years to come with him, my emotional peacock, my perfect spirit animal, my E with a big huuuuuuuuuuuuuuge personality.
Adopting Eisenhower was one of the best things I had ever done in my life that was so superbly life-changing. It’s kind of funny how–without saying a word–animals can actually teach you things, and he sure taught me a lot in the 3 years we spent together. Looking back, it’s so crazy to think that I had to spend time thinking about adopting a hermit crab on my birthday, all the while I decide to go and kiss an alligator (and yes, on the lips) because…..that sure was the safer bet. Ha. A couple days later, a decision was made, and I adopted E.
Sir E was raised a whole lot more differently than any other land hermit crabs are raised. He was smuggled several times into the CH and placed backstage in the wing to watch a our shows, he went to several of my work places with me as well as rehearsals, I took him to the beach for music nights, we celebrated at restaurants for our birthday, he watched Spongebob, listened to Tom Jones, he was pretty well known around town, he got to meet at least 100 different people and they all loved him. I kept telling stories to everyone about him understanding, and they would be like, “you’re crazy” until it actually happened to them. I’m like, “Uh huh. See. Yep. He really does this stuff. Do you believe me now?” My favorite memory is him being so loud that he’d wake me up out of a deep sleep at 3am or something and I’d be like, “EISENHOWER HOUDINI CRABAPPLE you better go to sleep right now or you’re going to be in trouble!” and he’d literally walk back down his pineapple house into the sand, and to his ship where he slept. It was hilarious and I knew this happened because I would quietly get up and watch. I could go on and on with our memories and funny moments, but I need to get to my point of writing this.
Shortly after adopting E, I started to realize that I had found my perfect spirit animal: the crab. They are very, very social creatures, but when they’ve had enough, they retreat into their shell. Trust is a big issue for them and to earn trust with a hermit crab takes a lot of patience and really truly earning it. When they are irritated, they snap, and they are very territorial and can carry an attitude. They also wear their homes on their back, so they are literally home just about any where. Home is more of a spiritual thing….as it should be. Home within the self, maybe, so to speak. All the things relate to me and how I feel.
The philosophy of a Hermit Crab in relation to us humans: Their growth is as big as their shell. When they move to a different shell, they are changing their life, their home, their world and stepping outside of what they’ve known for x amount of time. They are creatures who love to explore, but sometimes do step back in caution. What I failed with E: it seemed he too was scared to try something new (a new shell), and when he finally did, he went back to what he was comfortable with. That’s not how life is really supposed to go. We aren’t here just to settle or become comfortable, and stay. When you do that, you’re stunting your own growth spiritually and on a level of living to your fullest of capability. We’re here to live, to explore, to change shells every once in a while….you know, stepping outside of what’s comfortable, putting yourself out there, making new and exciting changes… everything that helps a person grow and become better in life. By “changing shells” you’re redirecting your life and taking risks for a potential better life. And–even though crabs change shells for the nature part of it–there’s definitely something to learn here from them, because G-d’s creatures are smart. I should know this after being a crabby mom for a few years now, they know what they’re doing, and in relation to life’s philosophy.
Over the past several months of my studying Judaism and understanding the way hermit crabs are – it’s kind of going hand in hand with my thoughts moving forward. I’m learning so much that can help my life become better and for me, personally, to become a better person to the world around me. And so, with that, I am going to take this concept and apply it to my new Hermit Crab babies and teach them in the name of all things Judaism. I will also keep Eisenhower’s spirit alive and celebrate his life, instead of his death, and my new babies and I will say Kaddish for him on Nov 17th.
I haven’t been able to do an official naming ceremony yet, but here are the names I’ve picked out: the baby’s name will be Adirae (adi – meaning jewel/ornament, pronounced ada-ray), the lighter green shell will be Lashir (shir – meaning song/poem, pronounced la-shure), the darker green shell will be Chailah (chai- meaning life, pronounced hi-la) and of course my Havali I’ve had since Hanukkah. And also in the Jewish spirit, I have always believed that one’s name makes a person… so I really hope my babes live up to be every bit of their names.
Karen Maeby (Ahava)