Now is the perfect time to create your best holiday playlist ever, songs to accompany all your upcoming dinners and celebrations. “Music is one of the strongest tethers we have to the past,” Kenneth Bilby, a former director at the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago in Chicago, tells me. “It’s a critically important carrier of memory.” It’s with this notion in mind that I’m revealing a story about my family I’ve never shared. I hope you find it helpful as you plan your holiday playlist.
After my grandfather died, my grandmother took a ceramics class. She got out of it exactly what she needed — distraction, friendship, and a sense that she could be happy and engaged once again. Grandma made more than a dozen pieces, and not too long ago, I did something I thought I’d never do: I gave them a creepy Halloween makeover.
One of the most uplifting gifts I’ve ever heard of giving someone in a time of loss is a wicker basket full of daffodil bulbs. The idea is for the recipient to plant one bulb for every year the loved one lived. Daffodils are the perfect flower for such a happiness-inducing project: as perennials, they’ll come back spring after spring—and they’re virtually indestructible. And, the best time of year to plant daffodils is the fall!
Have you ever heard “These Foolish Things”? The song recounts a long list of sights, sounds, and objects that conjure up memories of loved ones. Take a listen here. With a nod to this popular standard, go back to that restaurant you enjoyed together. Return to the hotel. And if, for you, this idea involves getting into nature, consider the enormous emotional benefits I write about in Passed and Present that stem from being outdoors (Forget Me Not #85).
My dad always wore neckties to work, so after he passed away, I hired The Gazebo to turn them into a quilt. The quilt brings back lots of happy memories, recollections I can now share with my children who never got to know their grandfather. You can see a picture of this beautiful quilt here. But discovering opportunities for upcycling other types of fabric is often more challenging. What to do with table linens, kitchen towels, aprons, and placemats?
In my book, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive, Forget Me Not #10 reveals several ways to repurpose fabric not usual considered for memorial projects. Nancy Roy, owner of Totes with Tales (www.toteswithtales.com), uses virtually any kind of fabric to create one-of-a-kind bags customers can use every day.
What do you call a trip that speaks to the desire to celebrate the memory of loved ones in the company of others who are drawn to do the same? I call it Commemorative Travel.
Previously on my blog, I revealed five destinations around the world where travelers can spend time away from home remembering and honoring the family and friends they never want to forget. Just as we build trips around caring for endangered animals, jumping out of airplanes, and building schools in developing countries, Commemorative Travel is another kind of specialized adventure. This type of vacation allows us to design itineraries to strengthen our connections to the past.
In Passed and Present, I reveal a number of Forget Me Nots that can deepen our connections to loved ones through travel. In fact, I write an entire chapter of travel ideas! Below are several destinations, and if you’d like even more, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please write “More Travel Ideas” in the subject line. OK, let’s share some of these opportunities.
After my father died, my stepmother longed for a quiet place outdoors to think about my dad. Cheryl’s ideal spot ended up being a secluded spot right in her backyard. She cleared out a few weeds, bought an iron bench at a garage sale, and that was about it. A refuge was born. You can read more about this idea and many others in Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive.
My favorite part of Cheryl’s retreat is the path she made to get there. She gathered a large number of medium-sized stones and carefully positioned them one after the other until a line of rocks stretched from the side of the house to the bench. [Read more…]