Service of Mourning: Remember

January 28th, 2021

Categories: Death, Memory, Mourning, Remembering

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

President Biden led the mourners honoring the 400,000 who have died of Covid-19. On the eve of the inauguration he stood by the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C., silhouetted by 400 lights, and said: “To heal we must remember.” The next day the President prayed at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington Cemetery. Again he led the nation in remembering.

Yesterday in a White House statement, he said: “Today, we join together with people from nations around the world to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day by remembering the 6 million Jews, as well as the Roma and Sinti, Slavs, disabled persons, LGBTQ+ individuals, and many others, who were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Shoah. ….”

“Death is natural,” my husband would say as he hugged me through my grief when parents, relatives and friends died. When he died I remembered his healing hugs.

Photo: en.unesco.org

Homer’s approach, while sensible and accurate, doesn’t mitigate the feelings of loss that loved ones experience. It must be worse when death doesn’t seem natural: Those left behind when the lives of Covid-19 patients have been cut short–whether children or the elderly. Without the virus thousands would have celebrated many other birthdays and holidays. Holocaust survivors and loved ones of victims of violence must feel the same.

It’s true that the departed live on in your heart and mind. Keepsakes help. I put my hands on my father’s and husband’s leather gloves that are on a table for easy access. The main character, Assane Diop, played by Omar Sy in the Netflix series “Lupin,” holds dear his dead father’s gloves as well.

When others remember one of my loved ones it’s momentous. It might make me teary but then so much does–it shouldn’t discourage them from sharing their memories. In what ways do you remember?  Or is it too painful?

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23 Responses to “Service of Mourning: Remember”

  1. Anonymous Said:

    Interesting you should raise the subject of remembering those who have passed. Just finished “Kindred”–about Neanderthals (from my DNA study I have some genes!!) destroying many myths and falsehoods about them. One part on death mentions finding what had to be keepsakes of those presumably close. Even 350,000 years ago–some signs of human feelings.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Anonymous,

    I will remember that you are part Neanderthal next time we speak! Fascinating what you learned about them.

    Pharaohs were buried with all their worldly goods in their pyramids [2550 to 2490 B.C.] so that survivors wouldn’t have had much left to remember them by I would guess.

    Today, people pay dearly for souvenirs of dead celebreties, even worthless belongings that are hard to preserve. I wonder if the same people think as highly of family souvenirs!

  3. EAM Said:

    EAM on Facebook: I have my Dad’s flag in a glass box along with a picture of the shelf.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    EAM,

    I have the prayer card (I’d call it a mass card) you sent me: “Grieve not nor speak of me with tears…but laugh and talk of me..as though I were beside you. I loved you so…‘twas heaven here with you.”

  5. BC Said:

    Our home is full of pictures of friends and family, some living, and some dead. I get great comfort from photos of loved ones who have left us.

    The warm memories also help with long term grief. My mother died in 1999, and to me, it still feels like yesterday. She was my best girlfriend.

    BUT life is for the living, and we must not let grief engulf our lives. Best to live life one day at a time and enjoy the present. The Covid virus makes all of us realize how great it is to be alive!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    BC,

    I have albums of photos I can’t face tossing, a chest filled to the brim with framed pictures and some meaningful ones around my apartment. I’d love to have enough room to display many more!

    I agree with your philosophy to train grief not to engulf us. It nevertheless seeps out when we least expect it.

    I’ll raise a glass to life any time!

  7. Helen Rabinovitz Said:

    I seem to look at death as inevitable. Maybe it’s because for 27 years I operated a home-care agency and clients died all the time. My dad died 30 years ago after surgery and I never got to say goodbye. That makes me sad. My mom died 20 years ago. I found her. Peacefully sitting in a chair with the tv on. I’m guessing she was maybe watching Jeopardy…her favorite show. My daughters and I talk about them both all the time. I’m convinced my dads in heaven teaching folks how to cheat at poker. Also teaching them to play pool. We tell stories about him and and laugh and celebrate him. My mom was special to my girls. To this day Hellman’s mayonnaise is nana’s mayonnaise and Heinz Ketchup is nana’s ketchup. They are always with us in the best way. I didn’t cry at either funeral. I’m not a crier and it wouldn’t have changed things. So yes we all grieve differently. However I’m the person my friends call when they lose a loved one or a pet. I can talk them off the ledge. It’s a gift…a strange gift but a gift. I’m actually really glad I can help out during a sad and lonely time!

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Helen,

    You are so lucky you don’t cry! I’ve been a faucet all my life.

    I love the way you and your daughters refer to “Nana’s mayonnaise” and Ketchup. Dear friends refer to the line of San Pellegrino sparkling drinks as “Homer’s favorites.” At their house they mention “Homer’s chair.”

  9. ASK Said:

    Oh, dear, San Pellegrino is my favorite drink, too!

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    ASK,

    So maybe you’ll think of Homer when you sip yours and I’ll think of you when I pour a glass 🙂

  11. Lucrezia Said:

    There’s no one size fits all expression of sorrow for our departed. Over and above the rituals that religions and/or cultures require, there doesn’t appear to be a good route to softening the pain, and often the shock of a loss. It’s up to each individual to find his way, and we number in the hundreds of millions.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    There’s no preparation and a person is shocked even if they have years to prepare. Some take medicine to soften the blow. Unfortunately, I would imagine that once you stop taking it you then feel the loss –but maybe not. An exception might be Alzheimer’s. When I paid a condolence call to a friend whose wife had just died he said that he had mourned her loss long before.

  13. Hank Goldman Said:

    Yes. I think of all the loved ones who are gone… Very sad very sad. But what can you do? Love people while they are here.

  14. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Hank,

    Sometimes I’m able to laugh when I think of experiences I shared with people who have died though not as often as I’d like.

    Excellent advice to love people while they are here.

  15. MarthaTakayama Said:

    I constantly miss my grandparents, my parents, my favorite uncle and a very close friend gone for many years. The sorrow mingles with fond memories, but the pain always reoccurs. I am deluged with photos in drawers and boxes, and my house is filled with many on tables. They are are modest comfort, but do not assuage the feelings of loss. I have inherited pieces of jewelry, some of which I wear always. They are constant reminders of my great grandmother and grandmother. There are other pieces of jewelry that I simply keep in a box full of memories. It is much harder to part with items such as my father’s army tags,and prayer shawl although he was not particularly religious, his ID.s or my mother and father’s licenses. I find it awkward to talk about these personal items. I often mark the anniversary of my parents deaths by quietly reading the prayer of remembrance from a tiny pamphlet. Helen is my very dear friend and I often turn to her for wisdom knowing that I don’t handle death or loss very well. My father told me when I encountered as a teenager the unbearable loss of my grandmother that Europeans handled death and mourning much better than we Americans. I always remember that.

  16. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    I wonder if Americans aren’t softer than Europeans. They suffered through wars in their back yards. To carry on they had to stiffen their upper lips.

    Lucrezia is right: each person handles loss in a different way. There are no shortcuts or remedies to lessen the pain. You are lucky Helen helps you.

    President Biden has too much experience with loss. I think he may have a clue by remembering. It honors the dead and shows respect of their loved ones.

  17. Debbie Kunen Said:

    Debbie on Facebook: I embrace the memories, though it makes me sad. Lis is in the photo at the 60th birthday dinner. She won’t be here to help me celebrate 65 🙁

  18. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Debbie,

    I met Lis only once at a memorable celebration at your home. She was a remarkable woman. She will be cheering you on for your 65th–I’m sure of it.

  19. Jackie Morel Said:

    Jackie on Facebook: Amanda wears her grandpa’s cashmere gloves.

  20. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Jackie,

    Wow! They are the warmest ones she will ever wear.

  21. Francine Ryan Said:

    Francine on Facebook: I try and remember the funny, the outrageous and the happy episodes I had with each person I’ve lost. And the lessons I learned from them that have sustained me. There are many, many.

  22. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Francine,

    Aren’t we lucky to have these memories? I, too love to remember the funny moments but coming back to earth often makes me miss the person more. The visit to the past is worth it but only in brief doses.

  23. Francine Ryan Said:

    Francine on Facebook: Yes, we are very lucky! And even though we don’t have them here physically, they are still with us.

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