I am traveling with my family this week to the funeral of my son's great grandmother, Granny P. She was 93 when she passed away and had been in an assisted living facility for some years due to Alzheimer's Disease. The last few times we visited she did not really respond to us, but my son was convinced she smiled at him.
I believe him. Because that is what she always did with him. She would watch him when he was little and say over and over, "perpetual motion, he's perpetual motion." And she would smile. She was part of his life and he adored going to visit Baba, one of his grandmothers, and her mom, Granny P, his great grandmother.
While there - anytime we visited - she would ask him about his puppy, go for walks with him, and they would play on the floor with red puppy and a toy train for hours.
On one visit when he was a toddler, she became convinced that his little red puppy (a stuffed animal he took everywhere with him) was in fact hers. The entire time we were there she would secret it away and we would have to go retrieve it for him. She was not aware of what she was doing but he knew she was taking something that was his. He was confused, but trusted us to rescue it for him.
When we got ready to leave one time, she once again had gotten red puppy away from him. We distracted her the best we could and searched her room until we rescued red puppy from behind some blankets in her closet. She had hidden it extremely deeply in the closet. But we were not about to leave without it. We still tell the story and he knows it well.
This weekend at the memorial service, grandkids and great grandkids were asked to bring pictures or other items to remember Granny P. My son brought red puppy (yes, we still have it even though he is now 13 years old). He will tell the story of her thinking it was hers and taking it several times. Some will laugh and some will wonder what the story means. For him it is a memory of being with her. It is a memory of her interaction with him - despite her disease. He does not know her from her prime. He remembers a funny lady in a hat who took his red puppy and called him "perpetual motion."
But he still remembers her. He wanted to be here to say goodbye. And he wanted to share his wonderful memory of her.
That is what memorial services and funerals are all about. They are about remembering the roles our loved ones play in our lives - whether briefly or over an extended period of time. It is a chance to compare memories with others and to say thank you for the roles our beloved family members played on our journey. It is a time to laugh as much as cry. It is a time to drink deeply from the family well. It is a time to remember.
Yes, my son still has red puppy. He keeps it in his keepsake box. He keeps it because he got it from his aunt and uncle for his first birthday and it reminds him of Clifford, the Big Red Dog, who his Baba introduced him to. And he keeps it because Granny P took it from him and his parents rescued it for him.
Sharing that memory makes him happy. Remembering Granny P makes him smile. Remembering those who have walked this life journey with us is important. This weekend is all about that.
Drink deeply from that well, my friends.