Me­mo­ri­als: keep those gone a part of hol­i­days

Record Observer - - SENIOR SATELLITE - By RYAN HELFENBEIN

Each year dur­ing our hol­i­day feasts my fa­ther does the bless­ing. He starts with the stan­dard bless­ing of the food to our bod­ies, but then moves into some­thing that is pos­si­bly unique to just a fam­ily of un­der­tak­ers. He asks for a spe­cial bless­ing of heal­ing to all the fam­i­lies we as­sisted that year. You see my fa­ther has al­ways built his un­der­tak­ing busi­ness around the fact that we help fam­i­lies heal. For the count­less num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als my fam­ily has as­sisted through the years, we can’t help but sim­ply take a small mo­ment to re­mem­ber them and the mem­bers of the fam­ily left be­hind.

Me­mo­ri­al­iz­ing a loss is some­thing that we see each and ev­ery day. Stat­ues, mon­u­ments and even lights are put in place to­day to help re­mem­ber a loss in­curred as a fam­ily and/or a na­tion. But when it comes to the hol­i­day sea­son, it also makes things that are dif­fer­ent from years past very ap­par­ent, and mem­o­ries are some­times all we have to hold on to. What we need to ex­plore is the mem­o­riza­tion of the in­di­vid­ual so that mem­o­ries can be shared for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

One con­cept we see fam­i­lies in­cor­po­rate dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son to memo­ri­al­ize some­one is that of sim­ply keep­ing them a part of the event. For ex­am­ple, dur­ing the big Tur­key Day feast, set a place for the one that was lost that year. And then have peo­ple share a story or mem­ory about that in­di­vid­ual re­gard­ing how they touched them. Place that mem­ory on the plate where they nor­mally would have sat and con­tinue to then rem­i­nisce about that per­son.

Yes, it may bring tears, and also laugh­ter, but each of these emo­tions is im­por­tant to those around the ta­ble.

If this is a bit un­com­fort­able to do, then at the very least men­tion the one who was lost dur­ing the time of prayer. Giv­ing them thanks for their love and sup­port to the fam­ily and stat­ing how much they will be missed.

The idea be­hind this is to not draw at­ten­tion to the fact that they are no longer there, rather cre­ate an at­mos­phere al­low­ing fam­ily mem­bers to feel com­fort­able to share their emo­tions with each other and ac­knowl­edge the one who has passed. This has ben­e­fited many fam­i­lies and quite frankly be­come an on­go­ing hol­i­day tra­di­tion for some.

Per­haps a pri­vate re­mem­brance would be more com­fort­ing, with only fam­ily near. For ex­am­ple, one fam­ily who had lost their child very sud­denly has made a tra­di­tion to take their im­me­di­ate fam­ily on a trip dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son. They want to be to­gether, in a pri­vate place to rem­i­nisce about the one they lost. This has pro­vided them not only a com­fort­ing and pri­vate at­mos­phere to emo­tion­ally con­nect, but a “memo­rial trip” that each of them look for­ward to year after year. Ul­ti­mately, it has gen­er­ated a pos­i­tive out­look from a sit­u­a­tion that is un­bear­able for most.

Ceme­ter­ies across the na­tion have ac­tu­ally be­gun in­cor­po­rat­ing ar­eas of the ceme­tery to pro­vide a place to memo­ri­al­ize at no cost. One con­cept is that of the “Christ­mas An­gel.” This is some­thing my fa­ther has ac­tu­ally in­cor­po­rated in Stevensville Ceme­tery lo­cated on Kent Is­land. It is an area where peo­ple who want to pay trib­ute to some­one can come and rest a rose or flower near the gran­ite an­gel and sit in a quite area to re­flect on that per­sons life.

This was de­signed to pro­vide an at­mos­phere of com­fort to those who de­sired a place to memo­ri­al­ize dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son and through­out the year. We find that many cre­ma­tion fam­i­lies visit through­out the year.

The idea of memo­ri­al­iza­tion is noth­ing new. It has been around for years. How­ever, the com­fort of do­ing it openly and emo­tion­ally freely is some­thing that has be­come more of a chal­lenge to­day.

Tech­nol­ogy al­lows us a place to hide and in a sense pro­vide an emo­tional bar­rier when it comes to deal­ing with a loss. Let’s chal­lenge our­selves to open up to those around us as those around us will then feel com­fort­able to open up as well.

Per­haps a sim­ple prayer this hol­i­day sea­son, the cre­ation of a “memo­rial trip,” or visit­ing a spe­cial place is some­thing that will help a fam­ily heal through their loss. One thing that can be promised for those who have lost a loved one this year, know that my fa­ther will be­gin the Helfenbein feast with a prayer for you and your fam­ily.

RYAN HELFENBEIN

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