Red Balloons for Joey

I’m disclosing this to you knowing there’s a chance you’ll think I’ve completely fallen off the cucumber truck. That I took it too far. That I’m a drama queen.

I’ve already shared enough embarrassing details about grieving for my dog to make you uncomfortable. You probably think I’m half crazy anyway. So I figure I might as well just keep going.

Last night we held a memorial service for Joey.

Yes. Let that sink in.

Before this weekend if someone told me they did that, I would have raised an eyebrow and said, “W-w-wh-aaaa-t?”

I scoffed at the bereavement cards for the death of your pet sold at Hallmark.

I know of an elderly lady years ago who stuffed and placed on her mantel her beloved late toy poodle Tommy. True story. You will be relieved to know I’m not at that point, but I am now empathetic to what once seemed trivial and bizarre.

We did not have a casket to bury or even ashes to scatter. We did not invite the pastor to give the service, though now that I think of it I might do that just to see how he reacts. We did not invite guests.

If was just the four of us. We took four red balloons, each with a picture of Joey tied to its string, out to the field Joey loved to walk in so much. We said a few nice things about Joey, thanked God for letting Joey be a part of our family and let the balloons float away.

It was not intentional, but it took place at almost the same time of day as the accident on Saturday.

It’s funny how you take note of the exact time of day something tragic happens.

David was sad he didn’t get to say goodbye. We didn’t let he or Wade see Joey after the accident, before he went to the vet. We thought Joey was coming home. We didn’t think it was as serious as it turned out to be. I at least got to pat Joey on the head one last time. Dave was with Joey at the vet shortly before he was put to sleep.

But David needed closure.

I thought a memorial service might help.

One final event to celebrate and mark the life of this dog who affected us all.

The tasks we do to remember the dead are not for the deceased, but to comfort us. Honoring the dead makes us feel like we’re doing something for them one last time. It helps to assuage guilt, and gives us an opportunity to choose how we will remember and how others will remember them. It allows us to say publicly, “I loved them.”

I don’t know if the memorial service helped David.

It helped me.

It was beautiful and peaceful as we stood together quietly remembering Joey, watching the bright red balloons until the last one floated out of sight.

I felt a sense of relief, like that was the end of the trauma.

Three of the balloons floated off in the same direction together. Much like Joey who was always going in the opposite direction you wanted him to go, one red balloon floated off into forever alone, on its own course.

Photo by Feggy Art used under Creative Commons License.

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