Ad Memoriam

by stacy on December 18, 2010

Last week was my week of mourning for two great friends gone from this dimension.  In my previous post, I told a bit about each one.  This writing I will tell you about the rituals that were created to help those still here deal with the loss.  While death is about the person dying, mourning is for mourners to spend time with others sharing memories, mining for more memories, and fixing those memories in place along with the face, smile, eyes, and laughter that are no longer readily available..  It’s also a time to comfort and be comforted.

On Wednesday, I went to Dick Battin’s memorial service.  Four of Dick’s oldest friends, my father was one of them, spoke to whom Dick was.  They told stories about Dick and skiing, dentistry, tree farming, fishing, corn growing and eating, childrearing, grandchildren, and so on.  Three of his four children spoke.  One spoke of his ‘unique’ parenting style, his son told tales about his father’s old truck patched with plywood and bungee cord, all spoke of the guidance he had given and the unconditional love they felt.  Their family pastor, also a family friend, spoke of being a friend, a neighbor, a fellow-parent, and gave insight into Dick’s beliefs and faith.  In an after-party for out-of-towners and close friends there was more remembering.  Drinks were poured, toasts made, and somewhere near the end, daughter number two, Robin, who had not spoken, came fourth with deep comforting wisdom.  She said that as she looked around the room, she saw her father in everyone present, and in this way he would continue on.

On the back of the memorial card created for Dick was a quote from Dick that tied a ribbon around the whole day and his life, “I’m never going to discover another penicillin or hit a home run for the Mariners or invent a better computer chip.  But if I can restore an abused piece of ground into a viable tree farm, I’ll die happy.  His wife Judy courageously spoke at the funeral.  She spoke of their life together and their love, and she said that she planned to stay on their tree farm, the land that he had nurtured, because that was where she felt closest to him.

On the heels of Dick’s memorial, came an equally rich memorial for Sandie that was different but at heart the same.  Last night at least thirty of us stood on a dock at Greenlake in the cold night air wrapped in heavy coats, boots, scarves, gloves, mittens, and one friend in Sandie’s life vest.  Members of the writing group and a few other friends had decorated Japanese paper lanterns that were illuminated with candles.  PK, our chief organizer and partner to Geri who is a member of our group,  stood before an alter that she and Geri and had set-up.  She explained the significance of the Japanese lantern ceremony and how we would proceed.

I recited a Jewish prayer for mourners.  Geri read from the Tao De Ching.  Then, one by one each person with a lantern came forward, spoke Sandie’s name, said a few works, and then lowered the lantern into the water.  The glowing lanterns floated quietly across the lake, a stunning tribute to a woman that we all love.

In someways, I’m coming to terms with the idea that death is what you make of it.  You don’t have to love it, but if you can accept it, you can hold onto the spirit of the person and not just the pain of the loss.

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