Posted by Vale
One evening last month we lit some candles, sat by the fire with an old book of photographs and reminisced about my wife’s mother who had died just over ten years before.
It was the first time we had done anything like this, but, over the last ten years, we have lost three of our four parents and are having to learn for ourselves how best to remember. The idea of the quiet time and the candles was our first attempt.
Then, a few days ago, with enormous pleasure and surprise, I came across this from the Gail Rubin in her book A Good Goodbye:
Every January 10, March 16, May 4, and November 2, I light a candle in memory of Grandma Dot, Grandma Min, Grandpa Ben, and Grandpa Phil. I put a picture on my kitchen table, and light a candle next to it the evening before. For that day, I imagine that particular grandparent sitting in with my husband and me as we go about our business and talk about our day.
It’s as if they get a glimpse into our current lives and I feel their presence for that day…
Remembering is about continuity and wholeness. It is restorative. In secular funeral services we tell people that the only afterlife we are certain of is in the stories we tell, the memories we share and the influence we feel in our lives. In the early days remembering is easy but In our fast forward world we have few traditions and no habits of personal and individual remembrance. Life rushes us along and too often the person you have lost feels as though they have been left behind.
Gail lists lots of ways that we could make space in our lives for remembering: cemetery visits of course, but how about memorial obituaries in the newspaper, placing photographs in the room at family get-togethers like Christmas, even household shrines.
We need something – a time or a place, an action, a personal ritual – to make remembering real again. Maybe it’s about tangible memorials and those glorious crafted containers. Maybe its something more private and personal. I know that in March and April I will be lighting candles for my own mother and father. What will you be doing?
By the way we’ve blogged about Gail’s book before. It’s worth reading not least because it led to a great discussion about shrines in the home. You can find our original review – and a link to Amazon if you’d like to buy a copy – here