Speak Their Name
Someone I love has gone away
And life is not the same
The greatest gift that you can give
Is just to speak their name.
I need to hear the stories
And the tales of days gone past
I need for you to understand
These memories must last.
We cannot make more memories
Since they’re no longer here
So when you speak of them to
It’s music to my ear.
©kp/Out of the Ashes
One of the important reasons we have end of life ceremonies is to speak the name, tell the stories and acknowledge the loss of someone who was special to us.
My father lived in another country for a long time and died there several years ago. He had never been a big part of my life but he was my father. When he died someone called me to tell me and my brother was left with a bit of a mess to clean up financially and that was about it. We just carried on but it never felt right somehow. So, years later I gathered my family together in my living room for a little memorial service. We told stories, listened to music and said goodbye. There was something significant about that event and I was glad I did it even if it was late in coming.
So often I hear people say they don’t want any kind service when they die; I have said it myself in the past. Now it saddens me to hear it because it leaves their loved ones in a bit of a quandary. They want to honour the wishes of the deceased but they are left hanging there without the comfort and acknowledgement that comes with an end of life ceremony. I have had many people tell me they wished they hadn’t listened, that they would have gone ahead with some kind of service any way because they really felt incomplete.
Some form of goodbye ceremony is an important part of the grieving process. It doesn’t have to be formal or traditional or religious. A goodbye ceremony should be reflective of the person who has died. It can be in a chapel or church or community hall or hotel or park or golf clubhouse or theatre or your own living room. It can include tributes both spoken and audio/visual, stories, poems and readings that bring comfort, acknowledging the loss and affirming the ongoing nature of life. It can be led by a celebrant or minister or a friend. The point is there are lots of options but, in my opinion, doing nothing at all is not a really good one. Remember a goodbye ceremony whether it be a funeral or a celebration of life is really for the living even though it is about the one who has died.
The growing tendency to skip any kind of service today seems to be related to our lack of awareness and the challenges we have in dealing with death and grief. There really is no way around either one and keeping it all hidden in the background doesn’t mean we aren’t going to experience it. In our culture of denial we like to pretend we aren’t subject to life’s vicissitudes, especially the experiences of los,s but indeed we are so why not face it, embrace it and grow through it.
Grief is really a transformational journey when we allow it. It can open our hearts; or it can shut us down. The choice is ours. If there are things left undone and unsaid in the relationship, then we need to resolve that for ourselves. We need to talk about those close to us who have died. We need to express our pain and sadness and what is unresolved, then we need to release it so we can hold in our hearts the fond memories instead of the pain. We need to come out of the shadows and let light into those dark places. Loss is and integral part of the circle of life with all its joy and sorrow, gains and the losses.
No matter what, it’s still an amazing life and we are blessed to be sharing it with those we encounter along the way. So let yourself grieve the losses and let yourself live and love and enjoy life as well.