when i was a junior in high school, my whole family (consisting of 2 parents, 2 teenagers and 2 toddlers) took a month long drive from our house in ny, all the way out to california, down the coast, back across the country and up the east coast. we stayed in a different motel 6 almost every night and spent most of our daylight hours on the road. it was a wonderful trip and we got a chance to learn a lot about our great big country while traveling fairly cheap.
while we were gone, our pets were left with various friends around town, but when we returned, we discovered that one of our gerbils hadn't made it. our friend didn't want to tell us about it while we were still on the road for fear that we'd feel sad and it would dampen our trip, so she put the gerbil into a butter tub and stuck it in her freezer.
this gerbil was not an especially treasured pet. we always had lots of pets and my brother went through a phase of rodent collecting, so it was just one of several. we didn't know if this one was male or female, so it was named Herm. in other words, we didn't know if it was a her or a him. hence, her/m. never mind, the joke goes flat when you have to explain it.
it was october when we got home and by the time we had the little buttery body back in our possession, the ground in our part of the country was already getting too hard for digging holes. we didn't want to flush herm down the toilet, partly because, well, yuck, and partly because it was questionable if it was too large to make it through the pipes. so we opted to leave the critter cadaver on ice through the winter.
the next spring we remembered that it was still there and we had a long distance move in our near future, so we needed to go ahead and get herm into a final resting place. my brother was often colorful in his sense of humor and liked to do things a little differently, so he came up with an unusual plan for disposing of his little dead pet.
it was his senior year at the time and we planned a big graduation party for all of our friends. we rented a helium tank, but no balloons so that guests could just fill up their lungs with it and we'd have a big, noisy munchkin festival. we converted a small shoe box into a lovely, satin lined coffin for herm and we even attached little poles to each corner so that it could be carried like a proper coffin to the burial place.
we drafted 4 strong male friends to be pall bearers and carry the corpse through the yard on their shoulders to the garden. we had friends who participated in being loud and raucous mourners as the somber procession moved through the yard. we had a "pastor" on hand who said a few kind words and a prayer at the grave sight. a couple people stood by the hole and recounted their memories of herm while wiping tears from their eyes.
slowly, herm's casket was lowered to the ground and placed gently into the hole we'd prepared. all our party guests took turns throwing handfuls of dirt into the grave until the hole was filled. a stone was placed at the head of the hole with "HERM" engraved on it.
we fake cried a little bit more and then commenced with the revelry and helium huffing. and a good time was had by all.