Barney's mom, I am very sorry to hear about your loss. What a hard loss, after 14 years with your boy, and not even knowing he had any health issues. What shock you must be feeling.
When my Gabbie kitty died 14 years ago, I couldn't wait to get her ashes back. I felt so much better - more complete - when I picked them up from the vet and got her home where she belonged. Then, when my Piper died last August, I was in shock and just lost without her, but her ashes seemed to have less meaning. They just weren't her. Piper was too sweet and innocent and I couldn't correlate ashes with her sweet soul. Instead, I have a stuffed toy that I cling to in lieu of her, and I have huge 8x10 photos of her sweet face all over the walls that made it feel like she was here. I do have her ashes and I sleep with them every night (I kiss them good morning and good night), but they seem so much less like "her" than I expected.
Now this week I have lost my Miranda kitty. She was with me for 22 years, and like Gabbie, I cannot wait to get her ashes back home where she belongs. I need her here. Although again, I have a stuffed toy, her blanket, and a bunch of photos that keep her ever-present everywhere I turn. But by day, her ashes will sit on my desk while I work (she was always in the way and I'd like to keep it like that) and by night I will sleep with her ashes next to me to, curled up next to my belly, where she always used to sleep. And she will be home.
Blessings and comfort to you as you grieve your special boy.