A Year Out…Creating Rituals of Remembrance
How can families remember one we have loved? This was Nancy Spencer’s question as she neared the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death.
Rather than seeking illusive closure, many families are creating rituals of remembrance. When Don Spencer, a good friend of ours was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, for the next 20 months he invested all his energy into bonds with his wife Nancy, three children, and eight grandchildren. A former Olympic trial athlete and Executive Coach, he also used all his physical will and intelligence to fight this lethal disease. This gave him two more memorable family summers at their beloved cabin at Priest Lake, and the joy of meeting his ninth grandchild, Nicole.
To help their family remember his inspiring life and deep love, Nancy created a celebration on August 18th, the 1st year after his death.
First, children and grandchildren gathered at the North Spokane Hospice House where they added an engraved leaf in his memory to the Tree of Life.
Then, they came to our home on the back patio for feasting, music and fun. She brought engraved rocks with sayings each of the grandchildren had written earlier that will be placed at the lake.
Then stories were shared, including an experience one granddaughter, Katherine, had on the soccer field in a recent game. “I was hesitating on making a shot and I felt like BoPah was saying “Go for it!” And I did and scored a goal.” Always a competitive coach, we all could imagine those would be his exact words of encouragement for his grandchildren. Sarah, another granddaughter, spoke of seeing him in the stars at the lake, a favorite stargazing place for the family.
Music from Judy Hafso, a teacher at the children’s school, brought singing and whirling dancing from Liam, his 5 year old grandson and joy for all of us seeing his exuberance, truly a heritage from his grandfather.
Nancy also brought pictures and writings the children had created in an earlier ritual where they wrote characteristics of their grandfather to match the letters in his nickname BoPah. Then, after each word, like Brave, she asked how many shared that characteristic of Don. Lot’s of fun conversation and laughter emerged from the children seeing themselves in their beloved BoPah. The best part was seeing how natural it was for the children to talk in remembrance. They each lit a candle by his picture.
Then, time for strawberry/huckleberry shortcake, in memory of Priest Lake sun-drenched days picking high mountain berries ended our festive gathering.
What could have just been a lonely sad day for all became another Spencer family memory of love and on-going fun together.
Have you created any rituals of remembrance you could share?
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