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Honoring memories

Susan M - May 20, 2007

The end of May is an interesting time for me. Lots of birthdays in our family during the end of May—including my youngest son and my father, who share the same birthday. My own birthday is in the first week of June, but somehow I hardly think about it, concentrating so much on everything else going on during the end of May. My sister was born in the end of May, just a few days before Memorial Day. She died in July, just a day before my other sister’s birthday, when she was 33. She’d have turned 49 this year.

When we lived in Washington, I made it a tradition every Memorial Day weekend to visit the graves of my sister, my brother, and my nephew. Not really because it was Memorial Day, but because it was my sister’s birthday. My brother died of cancer 7 months before my sister died, when he was 34. They’re buried near each other in the same cemetery. Also close by is the grave of my nephew, who died when he was 2 or 3 (I was 10).

Since I’ve moved away I can’t visit their graves anymore. But I’d like to continue to do something to honor their memory. I’m just not sure what.

My sister was schizophrenic. She lived in halfway houses most of the time because if she was on her own she’d go off her meds and end up in trouble. She was the most generous person I’ve ever known. I’m sure it was partly her mental illness that made her so. She’d give away everything she’d have—coffee, cigarettes—and then call my parents to ask them to get her some more. She’d buy bags of clothes from the thriftstore she worked in and bring them over for me. (Of course they never fit.) She was always giving and giving.

The day after her funeral, my parents went back to the cemetery, and they distributed most of the flowers from her graves to other graves nearby. That’s how she would’ve wanted it.

I’d like to do something in memory of my brother, sister and nephew next weekend, but I’m not sure what. Maybe I’ll go to a cemetery nearby and visit the graves of people I never knew. Maybe I’ll drive up north and visit my grandmother’s grave, which I’ve never seen. For sure I’ll take this bag of clothes my kids have grown out of to the thriftstore down the street.

For those who have lost loved ones, what do you to do honor their memory?


  1. I probably should do more, lest my father fade in my memory, to my great loss. I like your Memorial Day tribute. Maybe we should begin observing the Mexican dia de los muertos.

    He’s only been gone six years now this May, so I still think of him often. I dream of him frequently. I’m living in the house that he lived and died in, and his stuff is still around, so it’s easy to feel that he’s still here, just gone out for a bit. At first my heart would betray me when a car came down the hill, and tell me it was my parents coming home to this house I bought from Mom when it got too much for her to manage. Occasionally, I still do that thing where I think “Oh, I’ll ask Dad about that” or “Dad would love this, I’ll tell him about it”, but it’s become rare.

    I think being a Latter Day Saint has made the process of grieving much easier for me than for my unconverted siblings. They aren’t comfortable with the thought of our Dad, because it’s too sad for them. They are reluctant to meet over here, and we usually go somewhere else for family gatherings. But because I know my father lives, and I even hope someday I can do his temple work (if my mom relents), I still feel a close connection there. I feel more his daughter now than I did when he was alive, even. I love him more and we communicate better, though that makes me laugh to say it. It’s true. =)

    It would be sad if all that fades over time, so I think I will take your suggestion and begin observing el dia de los muertos each year. Here’s the wikipedia article on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_the_Dead

    Comment by Tatiana — May 20, 2007 @ 12:05 pm

  2. A few years back I got a call that one of my best friends growing up had taken his own life. He was in his early thirties and had been going through some very dark times. When I heard the news, I was — I guess the best way to describe it was emotionally numb. I sat down and wrote all of the stories I could think of — all of the highs and lows I could remember about my friend, the jokes we shared, the pranks we played, the deep late night discussions about God or the cosmos or girls.

    Many of them were/are very funny and make me smile. And now, in those times when my thoughts turn to him (whether it is memorial day, or his birthday, or the anniversary of his death, or if I just see someone of something that reminds me of him), I have that written tribute to turn to, and there are times when a memory comes to me that I hadn’t recorded, so I will add it. I occasionally share those stories with other friends, or my wife and kids. That is the best way I have found to honor his memory.

    Comment by Glenn — May 20, 2007 @ 2:34 pm

  3. My grandpa died yesterday. Because of complicated circumstances (mainly me being so far away, but also other reasons — I can’t leave the country here legally right now… no I’m not in jail or anything!), I won’t be able to attend his funeral this week. It’s really hard because I’m half way ’round the world and I’m trying to think of something I can do to honor him even if I can’t be with my family or say bye to him. Thanks for this timely and thoughful post.

    Comment by meems — May 20, 2007 @ 5:29 pm

  4. Tatiana, I always thought the Day of the Dead was kinda cool.

    Glenn, that’s a nice idea.

    Meems, sorry to hear about your grandpa. All of my grandparents have passed on, too.

    Comment by Susan M — May 21, 2007 @ 7:13 am

  5. I don’t do anything to honor anyone’s memory. The only close family member who has died was my grandma a couple years ago. I didn’t get to go to her funeral. I do remember her sometimes and I like to talk about her with my family. We have great memories of that sweet lady.

    The only other significant death in my life that really affects me is my high school girlfriend who died in a car accident. We weren’t close when she died. She was engaged to another guy and I was engaged to my wife. But even so, that one hurt and still hurts sometimes. Her family was kind enough to let me have a Winnie the Pooh that I gave her when we were dating. I don’t really know what to do with it, but I keep it and I remember her often. I hope we can be friends again.

    We used to go to my dad’s first wife’s grave on Memorial days, I think, but it seems like the last time we did that as a family I was in my early teens. I don’t know if he still goes there. On what would have been their 50th anniversary or something my Mom arranged a little something for my dad and my half-siblings.

    Comment by Tom — May 21, 2007 @ 1:01 pm

  6. wow, glenn, that’s a beautiful idea. tom, in that one last line your mom sounds like an amazing woman.

    my father-in-law died almost five years ago. i was there when he died, but my husband was sitting in cuba, waiting for a flight. my husband made it for the funeral, but there was so much disconnect between when he last saw his dad and then attending the funeral that i’m not sure my husband adequately processed all of it. he’s not been to visit dad’s grave and it still feels like we just don’t see dad because he’s working or because we live too far away. or maybe it always feels like that?

    anyway, that’s why this post intrigues me and i’m hoping more suggestions will come. i’d love to find some way to honor the life of such a great man or at least to attempt to heal some of our still open wounds.

    Comment by makakona — May 21, 2007 @ 10:57 pm

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