Thursday, October 30, 2008

Celebrating Life


At my father's memorial service (about 17 years ago) I remember being jarred when the minister commenced the service by saying that we were gathered to celebrate the life of Robert Frampton. I'm sure my head snapped up in horror. I wasn't there to celebrate anything! I was there to grieve my father's death.

Since then I've discovered that many memorial services start the same way and now I better understand the spirit of a memorial. Often the people gathered are asked to share memories or stories of our deceased friend/relative. As I listen to the reflections, I often wish that the person who has passed away could hear these stories. I feel that somehow we are sharing them too late.


I've heard of terminally ill people who help plan their own service, requesting certain pieces of music, deciding who should speak, even what kind of flowers they'd like there. They may even leave a letter that they wish read to their gathered friends. This really appeals to me. Just recently I heard of a women who is very ill with cancer. She decided to throw herself a big birthday bash, and her friends and family were determined to make it an especially meaningful event. One of her daughters performed a dance for her mother. Another read a poem she'd written for and about her. Many of the guests told stories of special times they'd had together. In the end, it was like a memorial service but the woman was actually able to hear the wonderful things people had to say about her. What a beautiful way to take your leave.


Another friend recently shared with me a letter she'd written to her daughter who was celebrating a significant birthday. In the letter the mother outlined the many lessons she'd gleaned from her own life, and wanted to pass on. It was almost like a personal philosophy. I was allowed to read the letter, and was very touched by the gift that it was. How many of us get to know our parents that way? And how often do we, as parents, sit down and write out what we feel are the most important values to live by, and give them to our children and yet, what better gift could we give them? They don't have to agree with the values, but at least they would know what they are, and who we are.

Once, when I was going through a difficult time with one of my own daughters, I told a friend that I was going to give up lecturing, and that I was simply going to live the best life that I could, and hope that my children would learn through example. I've discovered that that's a tough pedestal to balance on. Now I think it's more important to let our children know, clearly, what we value in life. When we're gone, they won't be able to ask us. As well, I'm going to engage them in sharing family stories, swapping memories of things we've experienced together, and possibly what we learned from those occassions. I've discovered that often our memories of the same occassion can be quite different. What I take away from an event is often very different from what they take away from it. Discovering what the other remembers can be very revealing.

I am setting myself the task of telling all the wonderful people in my life that I love them and why they are special to me. They might as well know now. It may take awhile to get to them all, but better late than never. I'd rather celebrate life and the people in mine while they are living.

The picture is of my mother and my daughters who are all very much alive!



12 comments:

Leslie said...

I think you are on the right track. I would love to be on that road with you. As much as I know I need to change my bad habits, I always seem to revert back to the old behaviours and attitudes. You make me want to focus more on what's really important. We all need to tell our special people that they are loved.

I love you, S.H.

Giggles said...

This is such an important post. Remembering to tell people what we love about them should be a daily practice. Imagine how kind the world would be. It would trump all the negativity! I've often said we celebrate people more when they're dead than alive. That's why it's imperative to be gracious when friends want to celebrate your birthday...it's a gift they give themselves as well. I love the idea of a pre funeral.

Hugs Sherrie

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