ways to help the family and honor the memory of someone who has died...


I am going to take  little detour from our 31 Days to Whole journey with this post. It's something I have been thinking and praying about for some time. 

My friend Kathryn messaged me last week with a request. She wanted to know what she could do to help some families she knew that had recently suffered loss. What to do to help honor the one they have lost? 

I have had that message in my head now for almost two weeks thinking about different ways I would want my Courtney honored and remembered. You have to remember that in the beginning the loss is all consuming. There was nothing penetrating my mind at that time except what had to be done for the wake and funeral. I didn't think about anything else but that. 

So I will start there. 

Immediate Need: 
What can be done to assist the family in making funeral arrangements for their loved one.
  
* financial assistance for the funeral and burial costs
* take care of the honorariums for the priest and others
* providing alter flowers 
* providing flowers for the casket or other places in the church (ie. the statue of Our Lady or St. Joseph)
* providing photo boards (if desired) for the wake and funeral
* arranging special music for the service
* providing rides to and from the airport for family and friends coming in from out of town
* providing the funeral program
* providing food for the reception (if there is one)
* providing in person assistance for said reception
* provide babysitting is needed for services or wake
* providing food for the family for the first two weeks or longer if requested. (this is easily managed with on-line programs such as mealtrain.com)
* providing people who will man the funeral sign in book or ushers for the funeral. 

These are a few things that come to mind after going through all of this with Courtney's arrangements. It was a huge help to us to be able to delegate many of these things to friends and family we knew would not let us down. If you volunteer to do any of these things, please do it with as much love and attention to detail as you would want someone to do for you. These are the things the family remembers later. Trust me. 

Secondary Need: 
Once the funeral and burial are over, everyone else goes back to life. The family who have suffered this devastating lost is still grieving. Nothing in their world is the same. They can't fathom moving forward without their loved one. 

Trust me on this. Ten months later I still have days where ALL I want to do is stay in bed and cry while watching Courtney videos on my phone. Surviving is not for the faint of heart. You have to fight to find that joy again. 

* write notes to the family, sharing stories and ways their loved one affected your life. 
* one of my readers, Ali sent me this:
"My parish mother's group recently lost one of our members to brain cancer. Our group leader suggested we each write letters to her children to tell them about her. To simplify things and to help us best communicate with them, she suggested we write letters for when her children (currently 3 & 1.5 years) reach the age of our own children. I loved this idea because I didn't have to pick a special milestone to write for and because I am used to explaining things to my 6 & 4 year old, so writing to a 6 year old made sense." 
What a gift for those children!!
* send a Mass card and offer to meet the family member for coffee afterward. 
* provide opportunities for the family to talk about their loved one. They miss them and want to remember every aspect of their life. 
* send flowers or a small token to say "I see you. I  your loved one."
* if it was a child that has siblings, remember them. Send notes to them as well. One great idea Kathryn shared with me was to make sure the private school the deceased attended knew to make a diploma for him in two years when his class would graduate. This way the parents get to mark that day with a bittersweet joy.  Great idea. 
* if the holidays are approaching, have an ornament made memorializing the deceased. 
* set up a tuition fund in the deceased name
* do something special at their school in their name
* set up a memorial fund that helps a cause that is close to the families heart
* donate to a cause close to the family
* send someone to a camp on scholarship in the deceased name
* create a special photo book with not only pictures but stories gathered from others so the family has their own "history" to read and re-read when they need to "see" their loved one. 

The key is to make it personal. The possibilities are endless. If there was a favorite flower or color, send something in that. If there was a favorite book, maybe donate several copies to the local library in their name. The family just wants their loved one to not be forgotten. They want their memory to live on. 

The One Year mark and beyond: 
This is where we are fast approaching. Courtney's first anniversary is Dec. 27, 2015. We have already arranged for the 9 a.m. Mass that day (Which happens to be the Feast of the Holy Family) to be said for her that day. Our family will gather and put flowers on her graveside. We will share a meal together as well. There will be stories shared about our Pickle. There will be tears and laughter. I have no doubt. 

* remember their birthday. do something to let the family know you have not forgotten their loved one. 
* remember their death day. Have a Mass said. Send flowers or a note letting them know they are not alone in their grief. 
* create a memorial garden in their name
* prepare a special meal for the family to be delivered the day before or after to help while they grieve anew.
* anything that was mentioned above

What we are doing to keep Courtney's memory alive:

* I have asked two friends (Cristina and Nell) to make two different embroidered ornaments to memorialize our girl this year. 

* We have commissioned an artist (Hi John) to paint a portrait of our girl. He begins work on the portrait in January. Now that she is gone, it has become even more important to Jerry and I. It is something we have always wanted to do. If my dad were still alive, I would have asked him to paint it. I searched a long time to find the right artist. If you wish to contribute to the cost of that portrait in Courtney's memory, you can use the PayPal on the right side of the page to donate. Put "Portrait" in the memo line. 

* I am looking for unique ornaments that represent our sweet girl. Still looking for a miniature pair of Chucks, a pickle, a blonde curly headed girl, an angels wings, miniature Dr. Seuss books, pink or orange gerber daisies and Blessed Mother with Baby Jesus. In time I will find them, I hope. Christmas was such a special time for Courtney. Oh how she loved the christmas lights.

* On her birthday my BFF and I planted flowers at her grave. We will go back in the next two weeks to plant bulbs for the spring. 

* I am making a memorial quilt in Courtney's name. I have kept several pieces of her clothing, special baby blankets, etc. to use. Not ready to take on this project yet but soon. 

* I would like to have a piece of jewelry with Courtney's name on it. I have not figured out what yet. 

* putting together a photo book (thanks Janet) with notes and letters from people whose lives were touched by our Courtney. 

* working with a missionary friend (Hi Colleen) on a very long term plan to create a learning environment for kids like Courtney in Africa. Very long term plan but it's there in our hearts. 

* continuing to work on my book about our journey as a family. Also appearing on podcasts and radio talking about the dignity of life. 

* sharing our story with whomever will listen. It keeps Courtney alive to us. 

* We will make it to the beach one day as a family. I will write my daughters name in the sand by the water she loved so much. 

* we are still accepting donations through the PayPal to pay down Courtney's medical debt. Just put "medical debt" in the memo line. This allows us to move on a little quicker to the items listed above. All in good time. 

It means the world to me when I get a note in the mail sharing something sweet about my girl or when someone sends flowers just because they thought of her (or me). Creating those personal moments of connection are HUGE to me and to those I know that have lost loved ones. 

In the end it's all about keeping the memory of that person alive in your heart and mind. The lessons they left for us are still being revealed. They are still present to us everyday. 

I would love to hear your ideas about memorializing someone you have lost. 

I hope what I have shared helps. 

Blessings, 

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