Each spring I remember accompanying Grandma, on the weekend of Memorial Day, to place flowers on Grandpa’s grave. The huge cement urns were filled with artificial blooms as the real flowers could not survive the scorching summer sun in the unshaded portion of the local cemetery. In the fall we gathered the urns and placed them back in storage until the following spring when the ritual would repeat.
Back in the day, in my community, it seemed placing artificial flowers was the main practice of remembering a loved one. I am so glad that today, in communities throughout the country, there are so many genuinely meaningful ways to honor and remember our loved ones.
Remembering a loved one does not have to happen only on the day of their death or burial; nor only on Memorial Day. Any holiday or day special to your loved one can become a celebration of your loved one’s life. You are limited only by your own imagination in how and when you honor and show respect for your loved one. Remembering a loved one in a special way can bring a unique measure of healing to your loss.
Here are fifteen amazing ideas that have been used to honor a loved one:
1. Consign a memorial bench. Place it near your loved one’s gravesite, along a favorite walking trail, or in one’s very own garden.
2. Plant a tree. Consider having a plaque engraved to commemorate the memory of your loved one.
3. Turn a piece of clothing into a teddy bear, a pillow or a quilt. Tee-shirts your loved one collected can be made into a soft quilt full of memories which can embrace you on a chilly evening.
4. Frame a cherished garment such as a jersey or uniform.
5. Hold a celebration of life party. This might be a themed party. Design a festive event at which friends and family can share memories at a place that was dear to your loved one (beach, bowling alley, a special restaurant). Include a memory table, meaningful music and your loved one’s favorite foods. Perhaps your loved one had a collection of figurines, CDs, DVDs, or models. Consider giving these as party favors.
6. Use helium balloons to send a message to your loved one. You can write the letter on a small note card attached to the balloon or write it on the balloon itself.
7. Plan a butterfly release in honor of your loved one. Here is one company that provides butterflies: https://butterflyrelease.biz or google butterfly release for other options.
8. Create a scrapbook of your loved one. Consider distributing pages to a participant list and ask each person to submit a page they have created that memorializes one of their favorite memories of your loved one. Don’t forget to set a “submit by” date.
9. Light a special candle in memory of your loved one. Perhaps find a scent that reminds you of your loved one. Design a special candle holder featuring pictures of your loved one.
10. Decorate a Christmas or holiday tree with a theme honoring your loved one. Perhaps choose red, white and blue decorations in honor of a veteran. Maybe your loved one was an avid cyclist—choose bicycle ornaments and ornaments that signify special bike trips taken.
11. Journal your thoughts and memories of your loved one. What legacy would your loved one have wanted to pass on to those closest to him or her? What unique things about your relationship do you never want to forget? Were there special events or trips you took together that could be remembered?
12. Put together a play list of some of the beloved music that triggers wonderful memories of your loved one.
13. Take a memorial trip. Consider visiting a place your loved one dreamed of visiting. Perhaps you will travel to visit friends and family to gather their memories. Maybe you will continue visits to a special locale that you and your loved one enjoyed together, honoring a tradition that you began together.
14. Get a special tattoo that honors your loved one. From small to very elaborate, make sure you choose something that will have a timeless meaning for you.
15. Volunteer at a charity or host a charity event and donate the proceeds to a cause that was dear to your loved one.
Maybe there are cultural or family traditions that help you honor the departed. Certainly, incorporate them into your memory time. Share your memories with those close to you and your departed to keep his or her legacy alive. Perhaps placing flowers on your loved one’s grave is extremely meaningful to you—by all means keep the tradition alive. Whatever you choose to do, slow down enough to cherish the sweet memories life has given of your loved one.
Have you remembered your loved one in a thoughtful or creative way? Share your ideas and let us know why it was especially meaningful to you.
by, Nancy Garren