As Funeral Celebrants, we often have the privilege of sharing the story of someone who has died. When we meet with their family conversations surrounding their story take place and it is not unusual that stories from within their story start to emerge. An example of this occurred with a family who lost their Mother a few years ago. I had the honour of officiating her service and I watched her heartbroken husband, who was suffering with dementia, trying to make any sense of what was going on. He saw his family in sadness, he knew we were at a funeral home. It was apparent that his mind was in disarray, like a jigsaw puzzle, and he struggled to make those pieces fit. The look in his saddened, lost eyes broke my heart because in addition to grief, I saw and felt trauma. I hugged him at the end, and he looked at me as if to say, “who the hell are you”. I loved him instantly.
I received a call recently that he now had died, and I was asked once again to join his family in remembering their Dad and Grandpa. One night we sat around the kitchen table planning his service and the subject of his visitation and open casket came up. His family shared with me that his “Sally” would be in his casket with him and would be laid to rest with him. I inquired as to who Sally was and they shared this story with me:
2 years ago, they arrived at the care facility to find a doll cuddled in with Dad. He had his arm around her and was sleeping in his chair. They inquired of the staff if they had given the doll to their Dad; the staff had assumed it was his family that had done so. He named her Sally and from the moment she arrived in his life she became his “baby”. She went everywhere with him. She was beside him for meals. She would accompany him on his many strolls around the care facility. She slept with him; his arm around her. He was most concerned for her well-being. He would ask her if she was hungry. He would ask her if she was thirsty. Sally became his purpose and in his rapidly shrinking world, she became his comfort and security. I was so moved by the story because within that story, it told a story of a man’s instinctive ability to love and protect his children; even when his mind had been plagued with illness, or in other words, no matter what! He somehow knew it was his job to protect and nurture his baby. When I paid my respects to him, my heart filled with joy when I saw Sally safely tucked in his arms. That beautiful man continued to keep her safe; and she continued the same for him. With his family’s permission I shared his and Sally’s story during his funeral service. He was lover and protector of his family and we celebrated that. To this day, we still do not know where Sally came from.