As I get older, I’ve noticed that I attend more funerals, wakes, and rosaries as opposed to being invited to baptisms, birthdays, and weddings. Last night was no exception. I was asked to sing and provide music for an old church friend’s father who passed away after a long battle with illness. One of my choir friends and I chit chatted while we were setting up our instruments and music stands. We ended up talking about how we wanted our future “services” to be handled. My friend and I are both in our forties, and I’m not entirely sure how we got into this discussion, but I suppose it was appropriate for the time since we were at a rosary and viewing for a departed relative. During our talk she told me that one of our other friends already planned out her services and wanted it to be more of a “celebration” of her life rather than the mourning of her passing. This friend is still alive, even after two bouts of breast cancer (which by the way, she has kicked butt after and is looking fantastic, but I digress), so I can understand why she doesn’t want the rest of us to mourn. I started to think about how people grieve, or how they process accepting the loss of someone they love dearly.
In a September article by the Grief Recovery Institute, people are advised to rethink using the term “Celebration of Life” when inviting loved ones to a service following someone’s passing (see full article at https://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/blog/2015/04/why-celebration-life-parties-my-not-be-best-way-recover-loss). The article states that while the person planning services on behalf of the dying or soon-to-pass individual may have wonderful intentions focusing on the life lived, those who are “left behind” still need to grieve in their own way. Case in point, I know that when I die someday, I want my family, friends, and loved ones to remember me fondly and celebrate the life I lived. BUT I fully understand that some, especially my immediate family, will need moments to grieve, cry, and process my passing. I do not want to deny them that need to grieve in the way they know best by telling them that there is to be no crying and no long faces. The article stated that those planning for such services should not deny the need of loved ones to grieve because it is just unhealthy. The same article even goes so far as to recommend that those who need it seek out grief support services or groups.
In my book series, The Last Prophet, the topic of death via martyrdom as well as terminal illness is something the loved ones of the main character have to deal with. While the topic ranges from the process of slowly coming to terms with the inevitability of a sick loved one’s death, to the pending martyrdom of the prophetess herself, the topic of loss and grieving is at the forefront of supporting characters’ minds. While it may be our hope that our loved ones do not feel so much sorrow at our passing that it numbs or paralyzes them, we also want them to remember the good times we shared and the memories we created together in love. A sense of nostalgia versus regret for not sharing our feelings is what many of us desire. I’ve come to accept that the best way for me to celebrate my life is to celebrate it while I am alive with the very ones who may someday attend my services at my passing. I choose to celebrate now, and later ask that my family, friends, and loved ones remember me fondly as they grieve in their own way.
How would you like to be remembered? Would you rather celebrate life now, or mourn death? Post your replies in the space provided.
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