After our elder daughter died in 2007, my husband and I searched for ways to keep her spirit alive. Three other family members also died, my father-in-law, brother, and former son-in-law. We sobbed for them all. Days became weeks, weeks became months, and our tears slowed.
Finally, the time came to think about memorials. As Bettyclare Moffatt writes in “Soulwork,” “It was time and past time to heal the stones of sorrow within our hearts.”
How could we honor our daughter? We brainstormed on our options, and narrowed the memorials down to three things, parental goals, our daughter’s interests, her giving nature, and love of laughter. These are some of the memorials we created.
Our daughter wanted to raise children that were healthy, giving, educated, and kind. After our grandchildren lost both parents in separate car crashes, my husband and I became their legal guardians. These designations made it easier to carry our her goals.
Five years have passed since the twins moved in with us, and we thought of her goals each day. Our grandchildren graduated from high school with honors, were awarded college scholarships, and are both on the Dean’s List. Raising our daughter’s children is the greatest memorial to her and our greatest blessing.
Finding New Interests
Gardening, decorating, baking, learning, volunteering — all interested our daughter. As a former teacher I’m committed to lifelong learnng. I think of my daughter when I’m doing research or reading about something new. Whenever she could, wherever she could, she supported her children’s intellectual pursuits. We continued this practice by proofreading school papers, suggesting/providing resources, and supporting travel as learning.
We also helped the twins find their way through the college search. If you asked them what we did they would say “nothing,” but our nothing included letting our grandchildren search on their own, gently steering them, and supporting their decisions.
Giving to Others
Our daughter’s best friend stayed in contact with our grandchildren. We met for coffee several times. “I remember the day Helen gave me a cuttnig from a plant in her garden,” the friend recalled. “She didn’t have much, but she was always giving.”
We have given money to churches and national organizations in memory of our daughter. I also give many of my books away. Recently I donated books to the Elder Network library. Presentations are also a form of giving and I speak for free.
My daughter was really funny. Working at the church rummage sale was one of the funniest times we shared. A church member had donated new bras for the clothing section. “What should we charge?” a volunteer asked.
“Twenty-five cents a cup,” my daughter quipped. At 50 cents each the bras sold quickly. I think about this memory many times and today, when I laugh, I think to myself, “This one is for you, Helen.”
Has the time come for you to create memorials in memory of your child? If so, think about your child’s goals, interests, and personality. These memorials may comfort you. In “The Courage to Grieve” Judy Tatelbaum writes, “Each of us can be a creative survivor. We can choose to turn great personal tragedy into life-affirmation action or personal change.”
Harriet Hodgson 2012