Have you lost a loved one?
What action have you taken to honor their memory and their life?
How do you keep the love you shared with them alive?
Whether your loved one died of natural causes, disease or even by suicide, survivors, mourners and the grief stricken look for ways to keep the memory of those who passed alive. Honoring them is an important part of the healing process.
In my 40 years of living, I have attended dozens of funerals and memorial services.
As an Italian Catholic, my family and I would often travel to the graves of my grandparents and lay flowers in remembrance. We would kneel in prayer for their souls. We would laugh and cry.
No Grave to Visit
But in Jim’s case, there was no grave, no permanent structure to visit. He was cremated. His ashes were taken back to his home state of Ohio. For Jim’s friends, or as he thought of us, his “Wilmington family”, we had no place to lay flowers – no place to drink shots of Jameson’s – no place to gather to talk about the good times, the funny moments and the laughs. Jim loved to laugh!
Creating a Place to Gather, to Remember
My close friends know me as a woman of action. I decided one of the ways to honor my friend Jim was to install a memorial bench in Wilmington Park.
In the recent Friends of Wilmington Parks newsletter, Jim’s bench is featured in a section called Why I Love Wilmington Parks.
Jim lived a few blocks away from Brandywine Park, a wooded area nestled in the heart of the city. The park is a nature lovers paradise in the midst of the urban environment.
Iron worker, Irish philosopher, lover of parks
Jim enjoyed taking breaks in the park like so many in Wilmington do. He would walk through the park, rock climb and mountain bike. He also loved being an iron worker and in true Irish fashion, he loved to sit and philosophize.
Jim could talk for hours (and any of you who knew Jim are probably nodding your heads in agreement). Keeping all those factors in mind, I decided to ask the park service to install a bench at the opposite side of the iron swinging bridge. I made a donation to the park, chose a memorial plaque and waited for installation.
Sometimes I sit on the bench and talk to Jim. Sometimes I laugh - sometimes I cry. Sometimes I curse at him. Even though losing him created an opportunity for me to grow, I still get mad about what happened. I’m human.
More often than not, I walk by the bench, imagine him sitting in his Jake’s Bar t-shirt, a pair of jeans and waving “hello” to me and winking in the unique Jimmy way he did. I nod my head in recognition and sometimes I even say “Yo Dude” back to him out loud.
I wish I could pick up the phone, dial his old number and talk to him. I miss hanging out with him. Our conversations now are more one sided than before (for obvious reasons) but I hear his messages of love, support and friendship to me in my heart loud and clear. I know he’s one of my biggest fans. Thanks dude.
Other ways I keep Jim’s memory close and honor him are:
- This web site. Living life to the fullest and encouraging others to do the same honors him.
- My Celtic trinity knot tattoo. I was inked in Dublin, Ireland in 2006 at a shop called Zulu Tattoo. The full tattoo story is long and I’ll save it for another day. Jim never made it to Ireland so a friend and I went in his memory. We drank fresh Guinness, toured the town, laughed and cried. I will cherish that trip forever.
- Music. I have most of Jim’s CD’s. We shared a similar taste in music and when I play certain songs, it reminds me of hanging out and having fun. I especially love blaring AC/DC and Foreigner in my truck. Sometimes I even think Jim plays DJ with the radio. “Rock and Roll ain’t noise pollution. Rock and Roll will never die” – AC/DC
- Carriage bolts. Say what? Jim was an iron worker as I mentioned. He also did a lot of home construction work. He LOVED to use carriage bolts. I have a 6″ bolt stuck in the garden in my backyard in his honor.
- Photos. I have a photo where Jim and I are standing side-by-side hugging one another and smiling (click the obituary post to see it). This picture used to sit on top of Jim’s piano. I had it framed and gave it to him back in 2001 or 2002. When he died, I took it back and now it sits in my office with a post it note attached that reads “Jim, Help me Spread the Don’t Give Up! Giggle On! message. thx dude.”
Wrapping it Up
Remember the good times with your loved one. Remember the smiles. Remember the lessons they taught you about life. Remember the belly laughs, the hugs and the playfulness. Keep that in your heart. Take it with you where ever you go.
Please feel free to share ways in which you honored and memorialized your loved one, and, if you knew my friend Jim, please chime in too! Your comments are most welcome here.
UPCOMING POST: Bob Downing: Giggle On Spotlight