Imagine hearing your neighbor died. You went to his burial so you know it was real. And then you hear: Lazarus is back. He’s alive!
Our Lazarus Experiment group is revisiting the Biblical story, and from Easter on out, for 40 days experiment how to live a resurrection life.
If that were my experience, would I live differently?
You know I would.
I would have a new normal.
Major experiences in my life changed me to have a new normal.
When Ken and I fell in love – we had a new normal.
When we understood that Christ’s sacrificial death was personal – we had a new normal.
When each of our three children was born – we had a new normal.
When our grandson, David, was diagnosed with cancer and 5 years later when we lost him – there was a new normal.
When I became guardian for my abusive mom, there were lots of new normals…
And now, with the loss of our daughter, Laurie, live has again radically changed.
Each of these changes caused me to look at others’ lives with new understanding and empathy.
Before our recent tragic experience, I used to wonder when I visited others who had lost a child, why most had some kind of a memorial spot, or a tribute, some so elaborate they resembled a shrine. I never knew what to say, and sometimes the displays made me feel uncomfortable.
Grief is a foreign language until death or sorrow come to translate.
Now I am beginning to understand.
And other parents now understand why I searched my files and collected Laurie’s emails into a notebook. They get why I long to gather all our pictures of her into a book….and why some of her possessions like a plaque of “It Is Well With My Soul,” her Bible, and music she listened to on the way to work and things she made have become extra precious. Because they all newly remind me of what she found touching and meaningful.
Friends and family have given treasures including photos and a video I didn’t have, a silver flute charm now on my keychain, a rose from her garden, a meaningful necklace she treasured, and stories about Laurie to add to my own.
All of these are healing and comforting and though I no longer have her physical presence, bring confirmation that although some parts of our life have changed, several remain the same such as our children always being embedded in our hearts and lives. That will never change.
An American Indian saying is “They are not dead who live in the hearts they leave behind.” If you have lost a child and have not yet created some type of living memorial, there are many ways you can treasure and honor their memories.
I am making a memorial herb garden.
For Mom I made a memory video that Laurie and I drove around and showed to her elderly relatives. We made a gift of a memory book for David’s parents. But there are so many other ideas —do a memorial release with balloons or birds, or butterflies, — create a card or token such as a pin or locket that can be shared with others — buy or create a special candle to light on holidays — write out memories or stories to review from time to time — or do something specific for others in their memory that they would have loved to do themselves (one friend gave a birthday party in her child’s memory for children who would not otherwise have such an experience).
But getting back to Lazarus, I realize he was a Christ follower as well as a friend, and I find comfort in the assurance that Laurie was too. I think Lazarus had a new thoughtfulness as he might have attended burials of friends or family. I also know what my daughter thought tender and appropriate and what she termed “woo-woo.” I don’t mean these thoughts and ideas to be macabre or depressing, or suggest that we idealize our loved ones memory in unrealistic ways. But we do want to remember memories and qualities about those we’ve lost in ways that bring honor and thankfulness for what we had with them.
Throughout the Bible, God and people designated or created memorials to keep alive remembrance of a particular event or person. The cross reminds us of the hope Christ gave. Laurie helped me design this garden cross made with nails by a friend in MI. It is now painted and stands by a floral bush she planted for me one Mother’s Day.
Certainly without these things we will still remember our loved one, but creating a living memorial can remind us in the craziness of life to look about and mark the times and places that love was known and love was shown. It is a way to honor and respect to keep their memories alive.
What types of memorials have you found touching and meaningful?
I am currently reading chronologically through the O.T , and I was just thinking about how God always encouraged them to set up things for people to remember events. This year we went to the gravesite of 3 of my siblings (died in the womb) but mom wanted to make sure that they had names and put a plaque on their grave site. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt and personal stories.
Yes, Grace! An important book to my spiritual life was Hinds Feet in High Places by Hannah Hurnard. The little doe was named “Much Afraid,” until the Shepherd called her and brought her to high places. Along the way she built altars. I believe it is important today to also create altars or memorials to our spiritual victories. It’s like a visual journal to look and remember: God was here, God took care of this, etc. and to be reassured if God brought us through those things he will bring us through again.
A man in our church recently lost his wife. Sunday, he brought a doll in a wedding gown and set it beside him. It showed me I don’t truly understand the grieving process.
Mary, It could be something she made or that was special to her or it could be he was going to pass it on to someone at her request or in her memory. It could be comforting to him if you said something like, Tell me about the doll. It could be an opportunity for those who don’t know what to say.