Finally, my mother asked for the microphone. I squeezed her hand tightly, gave her an assuring nod and then let go of my grip to reach for more Kleenex.
The Holiday Season for many is a time to think of those who have passed and are remembered in love. Understanding that everyone grieves in a different manner is only the beginning of many different emotions we may encounter. Shock, anger, sorrow, denial, depression and guilt may overwhelm you long before acceptance or growth enter your mind. There is no right or wrong way when it comes to dealing with the loss of a loved one.
My step-father passed away Christmas Eve, 2009; and my father-in-law passed away December 22nd the year before, so this holiday season was a conflict of jolly vs depression for many in my family. Watts Funeral Home in San Mateo, Florida provides an annual Community Candle Light Remembrance Service, Remembered in Love on the shores of the St. John’s River in Palatka.
Funeral Director Jamie Watts began the evening reflecting on how this ceremony was a time to celebrate the life of the ones we are missing in our lives. One by one we were invited to speak up and share the memories we had. “Your expressions of love may help others who are searching for Hope during the Holidays.”
My mother has been having a difficult time adjusting to her loss of her husband, Jim. “Pop” loved her and she missed him terribly. As people began to pour their souls into the microphone, it became clear that no matter how long ago some had died, their place here on earth had left impressions that would never be forgotten.Memories of the lives of children, brothers, sisters, spouses, grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and friends lived strongly in those eager to share a piece of them with us, strangers who held the same painful bond of losing a loved one.
Finally, my mother asked for the microphone. I squeezed her hand tightly, gave her an assuring nod and then let go of my grip to reach for more Kleenex. She stood proudly and described the man she loved to these new friends and they listened with an understanding rarely found when discussing grief.
In closing, she cried, “I just miss him so much.”
Grief is a natural response to loss of any kind. When you heart is broken, trying to be grateful for the time together sounds like the right way to feel, but it doesn’t help. There is still a void in your life that will never be replaced. The intensity of grief we learned, will fluctuate over time, especially near major events such as birthdays, anniversaries and the holidays.The tearful messages expressed at twilight on the banks of the river reminded us that the emptiness we felt was normal. When the remembrances were finished we each lit a small red votive for those lives we were there to honor with our memories. I lit a candle for my father-in-law, Albert Mackie; I lit a candle for my step-father, James Tanner; and I lit a candle for Thomas Ramakers, a business partner I lost suddenly this past July. In a moment of silence, I said my good-byes again, to not only these three men who were influental in my life, but to others I miss as well.
We were handed roses whose thorns had been considerately removed and we moved out from under the tent while some of the saddest songs ever written still played softly in the background.The event closed with “Celebrate me Home.” We were all given white balloons filled with helium and we released them into the night… and as we watched them soar higher into the sky they transformed into stars against the backdrop of a darkened heaven.
We are still here and each new day is a beginning. We have no idea what our fellow man has gone through recently and it is up to each of us to show patience, compassion and understanding to those we encounter along the way – on this – our personal journey of life.
As we enter a new year, a new beginning for some, I pray you find the Hope and Peace your soul seeks while you remember those you love.