Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Things you learn at funerals


 photo courtesy of

Odenville, Alabama is a small town. We get to know a lot of people really well- we see their kids at basketball practice, we run into them in restaurants, we know when they are sick, and we know when they pass away. I usually attend a few funerals a year for clients that have passed on. A few weeks ago, I attended a funeral for a man who had been a client for seven years.  
In some sense, it was exactly what you would expect- friends and family in small circles around the room, talking in quiet voices. People were signing the guest book and sitting to watch the slide show being projected in the front of the room in a loop. What caught my attention was the number of pictures devoted to his little black and white dog, a constant companion through a long illness.

The dog had come to him as a puppy in 2009. The dog’s name is Little Man, and his personality is… complex. I won’t go into any details other than to say that his medical record has a warning that says the following:

 At the funeral, I met several fellow victims of Little Man. One even showed me where she had still-healing bite marks on her arm. I heard stories about him guarding the sick bed and not allowing the Hospice nurses to get close to his owner. All of the stories I heard were delivered with a smile, and there was a reason for that.  
The reason was summed up in a picture hanging in the front of the room. When I saw it, I stared at it for a little bit and realized how important Little Man was. The picture was taken not too long before my client passed away.
He was sitting on the edge of his bed. Disease had clearly taken its toll on him, the way that cancer always does in the end. In his arms, he was holding Little Man out toward the camera. It was like he wanted to have a picture made of just Little Man, to remember him that way. I won’t forget that picture- it seemed to sum up everything about the relationship that the two of them had.
I don’t think of Little Man in the same way anymore. Not after seeing how important he was, attitude and all, to the man who wanted him as a companion during his remaining time here on Earth.

1 comment: