The house was full of taxidermy. When you walked in the front door, there was a bear, his mouth frozen in something that looked like a smile. In the next room a fox posed on a stump, two ducks flew across the wall, and a white squirrel crouched on a display on the wall. Oh, and we can’t forget Potter the otter who used to inhabit the Popwells’ pond in Florida.
Mrs. Popwell would tell you that none of the animals had been killed by her or her husband. They found them lying on the side of the road. A few minutes would pass, and then she’d tell you how they found the taxidermy lying on the side of the road; they didn’t even have to kill them. You’d get on another topic and then she’d remind you about the taxidermy once more.
You see, Mrs. Popwell has no short term memory. She will not remember me or Sunday night when I and my family went over to her house for dinner. She won’t remember playing the piano for us, or asking me three times if I wanted “decaf iced sweet tea”, or telling me about her father who has Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
But I will.
Boy, I will.
As her fingers flew over the piano keys, playing Amazing Grace, my eyes teared up. No, she couldn’t remember Amanda Brown. But she remembered God and His Amazing Grace.
Mrs. Popwell’s brain makes too much fluid. Nine years ago, back when they didn’t know about it, the fluid pushed against the part of her brain that stores short term memory. It could’ve killed her. It caused a recurring cough, which Mrs. Popwell went to the doctor about. They told her to go immediately to the hospital and have surgery.
Her husband told us the rest of the story because Mrs. Popwell doesn’t remember it. In fact, about nine months of her life after that surgery are just a black void. As her husband puts it, she could hardly walk or talk for a while. But, as they walked past a piano, she pointed as if she recognized it as an old friend. Then she sat down and played that same song she played for me the other night: Amazing Grace.
Crazy how that song stuck with her through everything.
As I asked Mrs. Popwell how she remembers things, she kept coughing with that same cough that actually saved her life in a way. With a smile, she related that “I may be coughin’ but at least I’m not in a coffin!”
Mrs. Popwell has every right in the world to refuse to be hospitable or try to make friends. She asked me multiple times how old I was, how many siblings I had, and related many of the same facts and story over and over again. Perhaps, in the eyes of the world, people have every right to not talk to her. Because, I mean, she’s not going to remember me . . . right?
I can’t even put into words what an amazing experience speaking with Mrs. Popwell was. Her love for God appeared often during our conversation. She marveled at the way the fire in the furnace flickered; at the way God brought her and Mr. Popwell together through a car accident and a visit to the chiropractor; and at how we pay so much for furs when God effortlessly clothes His creatures with them for absolutely nothing.
She was such a sweet hostess, bringing us tea and water and begging us to take another cookie.
She had only good to speak of her kids, parents, and husband.
She never complained about her short-term memory loss. She laughed about it and kindly answered all of my questions.
This Thanksgiving, I want to thank a God who makes beautiful people. I want to thank God for everything He’s brought me through in the past year. In the past six months. For the people He’s brought me to during that time, particularly the older people who hardly even know me but have made such an impression on me.
I want to thank God for short term memory, for the intricacy and softness of animal fur, and for His plan which involves me and every tiny detail of my daily life.
Who knew a visit to a house full of taxidermy could remind me of God’s goodness.
May we never forget.