We have been talking this week about holding on to memories. Though the pain of loss seems impossible, people somehow manage to use their memories and their grief to create astounding things, large and small. We wanted to wrap up this week by sharing some unique ways that real people are remembering someone who has died.
The Lavender Princess by Kirsty Mitchell
Some people decide to remember their loved one in small ways and some in large ways. And then there are people like Kirsty Mitchell, who start with a small idea that turns into something massive. Kirsty lost her mom, Maureen, in 2008. Maureen was an English teacher who, appropriately, could always be found with a book. The summer after her mom’s death Kirsty merged the fairy tales her mother read to her with her background in photography, fashion design, and costume design. She decided to do a couple of photo shoots to honor her mom’s memory. It is hard to put into words what Kirsty’s project has become, so I suggest you visit her site and spend some time getting lost in the world she has created. Wonderland is truly awe-inspiring and, more than three years later, it continues to grow. Kirsty describes her project saying, “it is true to say that in losing my mother I lost so much, but equally this new unexpected path has changed my life forever. So, no matter how sad the origins are, I am so very grateful for what has happened, and the precious friends I have gained. At present I still don’t know what the future holds, but the day I see my mother’s name printed on the inside cover of the Wonderland book,…….. it will feel like I have finally fulfilled my promise to myself…. and her precious memory. I miss her so much ………………”. Check out Wonderland on her flickr by clicking the photo above or visit her website by clicking here.
The first memorial so many of us create for the person we have lost is a funeral service. During the worst week of our lives, when we can barely think straight, we are asked to plan an event that will do justice to the life of the person we have lost. It just seems wrong – an impossible task at an impossible time. That is what makes Beyond Goodbye all the more incredible. This film gives a glimpse into the life of Josh, a 22 year old whose family began their powerful tribute to him with his funeral service and have continued it through their film and website. The website allows people to hold on to Josh’s memory by submitting music that reminds them of him. It links to a “postcards to Josh” site on which friends and family can send postcards to Josh. And the film . . . the film you just have to watch. You can check the website out here.
So often when we lose someone we hold on to the incredible qualities and values they embodied; those things become even more important to us. We strive to exemplify those values in our own lives and we hope to share those qualities with others. Beyond Differences raises awareness around social isolation in middle school students. Founded in memory of Lili Rachel Smith, who died at age 15 of complications from Apert Syndrome, Beyond Differences champions values that were part of Lili’s life. As their website explains, “Lili wasn’t bullied or teased, but was often treated as if she were invisible”. She successfully overcame social isolation by the time she entered high school. Her family started Beyond Difference to allow Lili’s story to “serve as a guiding light for other children, adolescents and families”. In honor of Lili, their organization “trains and empowers teens to lead the movement to create an inclusive middle school culture”. One look at their site and you will get a glimpse of the amazing person Lili was and the way her strength continues to shape the world through Beyond Differences. Visit their site here.
A Walk to Remember
Pregnancy loss for so long has been a disenfranchised grief: a loss that society has not acknowledged. In cases of pregnancy loss memories of the child are often deeply connected to the loss itself. A Walk to Remember is an orgnization in Colorado that is run almost exclusively by parents who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss. These parents are keeping the memory of their children alive through their commitment to supporting other parents and families in their grief, offering an annual remembrance walk, bereavement care packages, resources, and education. For every parent on the board or the staff of this organization, there are hundreds of others who honor their children in smaller ways: at their annual Walk to Remember, donating bereavement packages in memory of their child, or offering a short memorial tribute or story on their website. This organization shows the ways, large and small, that parents are remembering their children everyday while providing support for other families. Visit their site here.
On the worst day of their lives some families are given an incredible opportunity for their loved one to save lives through organ and tissue donation. Though it may sound like an easy choice to save a life, in a moment of grief it can feel impossible to think of others. Yet everyday families make this courageous decision. Francisco “Paco” Rodriguez was a boxer from Chicago whose family made the tremendous decision to honor his memory through organ donation. ESPN and Paco’s family shared his story in the E:60 episode, Hero, allowing us to see a little bit of Paco’s life and to see how his uncle and four other recipients live each day only thanks to his gift – a living memorial to the person he was.
If you have made this far in the post you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed by the scope of the memorials above. The funny thing is we often stumble on small, everyday tributes that are equally as inspiring and healing. Dear Photograph is a site worth checking out. Grieving or not, it is a really cool concept. The site’s subtitle pretty much sums it up: “take a picture of a picture, from the past, in the present”. Some of the photos mourn loss, some celebrate change, and all remind us just how much the past and the present are deeply intertwined. One of these days I will do this (and maybe I will even blog about it . . .). In the meantime check out the amazing ways people are remembering those they have lost on the site. Click on the picture below to visit their site.
You were taken one month before these two love birds were married. He was a decorated World War ll Veteran and she was a wonderful mother to his nine wonderful children. If they’d been given just a few more moments to spend being wrapped up in each other’s arms, they would’ve celebrated sixty-six years of marriage this year. Still, every night before she falls asleep, she whispers “I love you”…to the empty space next to her in bed.
Their loving grandchild,
This list could go on and on, but I will stop here for now because fifty minutes’ worth of video and five websites seems like more than enough for now. Checking out these amazing tributes is one of our favorite pastimes, so please leave a comment if have a memorial you want to share or one that has inspired you.
For more tips on memorializing loved ones, check out the following articles: