A Tale of Two Memorials May 28, 2012Posted by ijwoods in Blog+.
Tags: ceremony, cremation, listening, memorials, preparations
It’s completely coincidental that I’m inspired to write about memorials on Memorial Day. It just so happened that last weekend we had a second memorial for K in Minneapolis. Minneapolis is where K is originally from and it always held a special place in her heart. There are a lot of family and dear friends who still reside there, not to mention there’s also a spot for her in the family’s section of a local cemetery.
The memorial was a wonderful experience. It was thoughtfully and lovingly planned and attended by people who had strong affection for her. K was an amazing individual and I feel incredibly lucky to have known her so intimately. Those who met her were almost always deeply affected by her joy, sharp intelligence and caring nature. When she focused her attention on you it was both genuine and complete. She had a way of connecting that made you feel you mattered.
What I liked so much about the two memorials was that they were put together out of a combination of K’s wishes and our own inspiration. K provided us with enough information to take care of some basics, but she was clear that memorials are for the living. She wanted that whoever attended should have a good experience and that her family and I were able to express our love for her in our own way.
A memorial may seem a bit troubling to bring up as a topic with someone still living, but it’s truly worthwhile discussing ahead of time. And actually, it was one of the more fun things to talk about. I think this may be because it’s hard to think you may be going any time soon so perhaps it seems more like planning a party.
Here again, planning saves us from a lot of second guessing and provides assurance that what we are doing is exactly what our loved one wants. If you don’t hear the specifics from your loved one rest assured that everyone in your family is going to have their own opinion – and it can get contentious. Even if you know what your loved one wants, once they are gone, there is still the possibility of disagreements, but at least you know. Getting details clear ahead of time is important because once your loved one is gone there is no technology that will allow you to communicate with them to get your questions answered.
The most basic thing to decide is what will happen to the body once your loved one has passed away. Some people want to be cremated and some want to be buried. What does your loved one want? K wanted to be cremated and made no bones about it. She was adamant that her passing not be a burden on anyone. For her, cremation was both a simple and clean option. As far as she was concerned, once life left the body and went its own merry way, the body was of little importance.
What I found most fascinating in the process was that aside from where her ashes would be scattered, she was actually more concerned with the experience people would have rather than what experience her ashes would have. It was almost as if what happened afterwards was another form of communication to us from her, even though she was gone. She also saw it as a communication from us about our feelings towards her and towards life.
The question of scattering was somewhat involved. Red Rock Canyon Park was a place where we had a lot of quality time together and had come to love. The views are amazing and she knew I would continue to hike there and find my way back to where the scattering happened. So emotionally and practically it seemed like a great place even though it wasn’t where she grew up.
On the other hand Minneapolis is where she was born, developed into adulthood and where she enjoyed many years with her family and friends. In the final wash she ended up with a unique decision; half the ashes would be scattered in Nevada and the other half would go to Minneapolis. That’s how we ended up with two memorials. There is now a plaque in Minneapolis with K’s ashes underneath it in her family’s area, and her ashes are scattered outside of Las Vegas in Red Rock Canyon Park.
Both ceremonies were created out of our inspiration as K had hoped. The only thing she asked was that the people attending should receive a little gift. For Red Rock she suggested a red sandstone rock, just like the ones found in the park’s mountains. K’s sister did such a beautiful job of putting this together. She bought some red sandstone pieces and little decorative boxes to place them in. She asked me to come up with brief sayings that K might have wanted to share. We put those saying on paper and placed in the boxes along with the stone. K also wanted rose petals mixed with her ashes so it wouldn’t look so drab. K’s sister bought special packets of dried rose petals for that purpose.
Fifteen of us hiked up to the spot she selected, and after I said a few words, quietly took turns sprinkling her ashes and the rose petals in a spot that seemed created by nature for this very purpose (see the photo). It was incredibly beautiful.
In Minneapolis things were done differently but were no less beautiful. We had lunch at K’s favorite childhood malt shop, a reception at one of her favorite local restaurants and then we got together for dinner to continue our celebration of an existence well lived. The ceremony took place at the cemetery where a plaque had the inscription “Dedicated to Peace” and “A Caring Heart”, two things that we felt were important highlights of her life. Her sister-in-law sang a song with a guitarist and all had an opportunity to lay down a long stem rose and share something about their feeling and memory of K.
The fact that K and I took discussed her passing and memorial ahead of time allowed those of us here to celebrate her life together in a memorable way. It was a brave thing to do on her part. But it was her involvement that made it an extension of her and us together. These two ceremonies will always remain something special for me.
On many weekends I continue to hike up to where we did the scattering in Red Rock Canyon and sprinkle some fresh dried rose petals. The view and silence are perfect for remembrance. When next I go to Minneapolis I will look for her marker and remember how she brought us all together in love.