I have a confession. Sometimes I become weary of memorials. They make me sad. They make me miss the person being memorialized. And selfishly, the laudatory words at memorials can make me feel inadequate because I could never live up to the praises that are put upon the departed. The people memorialized never seem to have any faults.
On the way to a women’s association memorial for departed members, my mother included, I began to think differently about the rituals of remembering our loved ones. I realized that the value of memorials is to guide the journeys of those are left behind. When we memorialize someone, we think about those things that are that person’s legacy — those attributes we value. It is a way for our departed mothers, grandmothers, friends, to mentor us in the conduct of our lives. When we speak of a person’s sense of humor, we are honoring that person’s gift of laughter and the lesson to not take too seriously those things that are not really important. When a club member is remembered for being a charter member, that history reminds us of the gift and responsibility of leadership. And when we recount the many ways our friend has been there for us, we are reminded of the characteristics of friendship.
Memorials, then, do not show us how good the departed was and how inadequate we are, but they give our lost family and friends ways to walk along side of us on our own journeys. The cream of their character has risen to the top, and that is their offering to the nurturing of our souls.