This week there were somany wonderful responses to last week’s question of how do you honor your lovedone, that I will be very brief. I split the message into three parts. The first is a poem sent by Mary O.; the second covers answers to the question about how you honor your loved one. The third contains some more quotes sent by survivors and how people could make them less hurtful. Let us slow down a bit and use thesame question this week which is: How do you honor your loved one? There are so many good ideas and I want to give others a chance to respond.
Enjoy the replies.
From Mary O:
Words in response to death are universally empty.
Actions manage loss.
Warmth; hugs; anecdotes;living commentary on the story of our lost beautiful ones.
Speak to death and hear the echo of futility - cloaked in disappointment.
Speak to life and actionand hear resonance of our universal future - nurtured by the honor of those most missed.
HEROISM IS THE ONLY LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS.
Ways to Honor Your Loved One
In memory of my heroic son– contributions were made to the IAVA; I got many people to sign their donorcards and speak to family about their wishes; I gave two piano recitals and dedicated my recent piano amateur competition to him; I will have a bench putin his name at the military cemetery. But mostly I speak to him daily.
What do I do in memory of Kevin?
Each Christmas I take the money I would have spent on Kevin and I add to it and senda contribution to Marine Moms of Bethesda. This is a group of Marine Moms whoprovide luncheons for wounded service members of all branches of the militaryand their families. It started as a small thing and has grown much larger. One of the moms who is involved, her son was in Afghanistan with my son. I send this in memory of Kevin and in honor of my other son Eric (who is Army and deploying to Afghanistan this Aug.) and all the other military moms’ children.
Also Each Memorial Day weekend some co-workers and I do a local 5K run/walk for Wounded Warrior Project. I dothis for both my sons.
I donate to those 2 groups in memory of Kevin to try to help other military families whoare hurting in so many ways. Kevin was all about helping other people especially, his fellow Marines.
At thispoint I ask myself what haven't I done in memory of my loved one? At the Veterans’ cemetery they have a memorial pathway where you can have yourloved one’s name added to a stone; I also purchased a bench with a plaque in the area he's in. At home I have garden stones and a garden flag with his picture. I like to go there on the days I can't make it to the cemetery and feel close to him. I planted a tree in his honor; had a tapestry made with his military picture; plan on framing his dress blue uniform and hanging it up. This fall I plan on expanding my outside home memorial to include a sitting area with benches and beautiful flowers. To some it may seem like a lot. To me it's not enough. I want to be surrounded by his memory and if others are bothered by my shrines "don't come over". I was told by another grieving mom there are websites that can turn your loved ones clothing into a teddy bear, quilt or tote bag.
I have familyreaching out to TAPS to participate in their runs in honor of my son. As gifts for the dads, I had money clips made with their son’s pictures, and for the moms had angel garden stakes with their son’s initials. I’ve been given willow tree figurines, beautiful jewelry, inspirational poems, plaques all of which I display and have used.
I hope this helps. I know it doesn't come close to having my son there but for me I find comfort in it and will continue to find ways to cherish his memory.
Editor’s Note: If you are interested in having someone run in your loved one’s memory and sharing a donation page for TAPS, please see the article in the last TAPS magazine or go to http://www.taps.org/support/
I don't do much in memory of my brother, but try to remember things about him, what we did together, how we used to always kid around, and the times we spent together. My mother has his picture, hat and flag on a table next to when you come in the door. Of course, granny’s ashes are sitting there in her box, and dad's picture, hat and flag are next to my brother. My sister has a memorial page for my brother, but I cannot make myself join it ‘cause of his two face friends on there. I did manage to go to his candle lighting we had for his birthday and then his one year of him gone. I think Iwent to his next birthday, and we put flowers on his grave, and decorated it.
Now his second year will be coming again. T.A.P.S. has asked me to write my own personal story, but yet I do not know what to say. I even went to the National in Washington, D.C., I met a lot of great people includingCarol. The class I was in for siblings about those who we had lost, really helped. Usually writing has been helping, answering everyone's questions and giving my own personal experience. Death is death; everyone grieves in their own manner, own time frame. No one knows what we each go through but someone who has experienced it.
Like every one of us here, that reads this page, all we want is our loved ones back,‘cause we will never see them again. We miss them so much. They were a big part of our lives; they were a piece of the puzzle that is missing now. Our lives will not be the same ever again. Yes, somedays will be good, and then there will be days that we just feel like we arenot going to make it at all. Our loved ones birthdays come around. God, how we will cry, go sweep their stones off, clean their plot, put out flowers and balloons, do whatever we want to let them know they are not forgotten, even onthe day they left us and the day we buried them. We are the ones who will not forget them. So sewing a quilt, making a scrap book,leaving their room as they left it, leaving their clothes hanging in the closet, or even making a memorial box of the little things, pictures you wish to keep, making a web page in their honor, even keeping their memorial page open for years is not wrong. I wish I had a shirt my brother worewith his favorite cologne on it to smell once in a while when I am really missing him, or anything of my brother's. I never even got a chance to say good bye to my brother. Doing whatever it is that you both did together, or what you love to do for that loved one, a garden, or even atattoo, even naming a boat, or donating a scholarship in their name, even naming a bill in Congress in their name. For no one can take your memories of your loved one away, and you will never forget them.
My son John was killed in Afghanistan on September 28, 2011. My son, Andrew, and I have done several things in his memory to date. We donated $500.00 to both his elementary and middle school libraries to place in the library positive books about each branch of the military and great men and Presidents who have served in our military. We donated $1000.00 for a memorial bench to be placed in his elementary school's courtyard in memory of John. We donated $10,000.00 to John's High School JROTC program tomake sure the cadets have the supplies and equipment they need. His high school plans to name the JROTC annex after John. We donated$500.00 to our church youth ministry and $1000.00 to the Calling All Nations Missionary endeavor. At present we plan to donate monies forthe DeKalb County Library to add new military volumes to their collection. John read all of the military books the library system had. We plan to celebrate John's life on his birthday, Memorial Day, and the date of his death. In the future I plan to have all family members of John and his friends for dinner on one of the three dates above. John will never be forgotten by Andrew and me.
As for this week’s question….. We have done a few things such as planted a "Blaketree" in our yard and you better believe me it gets better care than anyother plant in our yard! It's near our patio where we like to sit in the evenings. Last year my daughter-in-law (Blake's wife) put a Bleeding Heartplant on his grave when she came for a visit for his birthday. She asked me to go back in a day or two to get the plant and just care for it since she knew it would not live for long out at the cemetery. I went out and brought the plant home as she asked. I didn't really know much about caring for that kind of plant so I decided to hang it in a basket on our "Blake tree". It grew and wrapped itself all around the tree as if it was hugging it. I brought it in as it got colder and thought I had killed it as I've done with manyplants in the past. Guess what? This spring it started to sprout up again and grow, so it's back hanging on and hugging "Blake's tree".This has brought Kate comfort too. Recently we started a foundation in Blake's name and are starting to work on what we hope to be a yearly run/walk to keep the funds from depleting. In the past we've given out 4 scholarships in his name and hope to keep them going through the fund raising we are working on.
Having my husband die only 8 months after our son has taken a tremendous toll on my family & we are still trying to think of some way to honor both who served this country. But the one thing I have done is continue to work with the local Community Tissue Service & Eye Bank ... my son’s corneas were donated & 2 people can now see. So I continue to contribute to their newsletters, donation drives,etc.
We do plan on something as a family that will represent both my husband & son and will share that with you when we figure it out.
The two worst things said to me were:
Probably just two months after my son's death, the next door neighbor who always started a conversation asking about my son, saw my husband and I and asked how we were.We said, not good. His response was that it was time for us to move on - he had lost a mother and sister (or someone in his family) and it hurts at first but you just move on. Ugh . . . I have still not moved on less than a year since Kevin's death and maybe I never will. I don't speak to that neighbor any longer.
The second came from a close business friend. She said, please don't take this wrong but don't you feel a sense of relief as now you don't have to worry about him anymore. WHAT? It stopped me cold but I looked straight at her and saidthat is absolutely NOT how I feel. I would give anything, anything to have my son back. I miss every second that he is gone. Wow.
People should just say how you are doing? Or they might ask, “Can I do anything; I'm sorry.” Or just shut up. That is what I learned.
I have been struggling lately with comments made by friends/acquaintances. My first grandchild is a boy who was born 5/22/12. We lost Joe on 1/7/12 while his sister was pregnant. After the birth a large number of people said things to the effect that his birth would take away some of our pain. As recently as this morning I answered by saying they are two separate issues. We are overjoyed at being grandparents and want our grandson to experience a happy, loving family.We are and always will be devastated by the loss of our precious son. Some people have gone into long speeches about how this will heal us. A simple congratulation would be much more appreciated.
After Joe passed another well-meaning friend wrote a long letter to my daughter describing her wonderful relationship with her own brother, therefore trying to say she understood. I thought it was addressed to me so I read it and was seething. How could someone think that would be helpful?
I agree, someone should write a book or maybe a pamphlet to be distributed at funeral homes.
One person I forgot to mention was an acquaintance who saw me in the supermarket and said "I don't know what to say so I'm giving you a hug" that made my day. I always smile when I think of that gesture.
One of the things that really started to bother me during my grieving process, and isstill being said to me today, is this statement, "you are such a strong women/person"! WHY? Because I happen to be the mother & wife of two people who passed away; wasn't a choice…just happened. I heard it so many times it actually started to make me physically sick. I don't understand the statement or the reasons behind it.
WhatI would like people to have said was possibly ask me how my son's kids are doing, and is there anything they could do for them or for my grandkids that have spent every day of the past 7 yrs. with my son. No one ever asked about the kids and that would have been very comforting to me.
I totally get how uncomfortable "death" is for folks; I used to work for Hospice..... and it's so sad that it is, but it's sad not for me and that doesn't make me strong, it just makes me a person that took the time growing up to look ahead to the future and realize that someday, all good things come to an end and I would have to decide how I was going to accept that reality. I chose with respect and dignity; that's all I've done! And I'd hope that's what is shown me when it's my time.