Tag Archives: Ceremony of Remembrance

Remembering at Christmastime…

     For the past 14 years, Lake City Church, where I’m privileged to be employed part time, hosts a Ceremony of Remembrance the first Saturday of December. The lovely event is a time set aside especially for individuals, and sometimes entire families, to join with others to remember loved ones who’ve died.

     I love what our Pastor Rodney, this year’s event speaker, says about the process of grieving:

Grief isn’t what’s wrong with us. Grief is what’s right with us.

     Processing grief always involves remembering. Remembering can be both bitter and sweet. It’s sometimes difficult to determine where bitterness ceases and sweetness begins. Often, the two potent emotions co-mingle. One minute, tears flow, and the next minute laughter erupts. Surely, I observed these types of sacred moments as I mingled and spoke with people at the recent Ceremony of Remembrance

     Remembering helps battered emotions heal. Remembering is healthy.

     Sometimes, remembering is filled with nothing but pure joy. This was the case for me a few days ago.

     I’d been reminding myself the past few weeks to update the photograph of our three older grandchildren in a picture frame that’s been reserved for their photos for close to 20 years. Finally, I got around to the task. When I removed the top photograph, I discovered treasured memories buried below—six years of Christmas pictures from bygone times when my now-so-grown-up grandkids were little tykes.

     The glow of Christmas tree lights reflected on the sweet little faces of precious loved ones all decked out in cute Christmas attire. Christmastime nostalgia grabbed me ‘big time.’

     Each year for eight or nine Christmases, I purchased these grandkids special Christmas outfits. I loved those once-a-year expenditures. Since I’m a good sale shopper, my husband never complained, although I had to agree with him that buying clothes, which may be worn only once or twice, is frivolous! Frivolity or not, I cherished those shopping experiences. The sweetness of the memories I experienced the other day assured me sometimes frivolous giving nurtures the soul.

     One of the treasured Christmas photographs I discovered was of Mackenzie, left, and Sydney, right—today sophisticated 22- and 24-year-old women—wearing one of my favorite finds. I loved the matching Christmas plaid taffeta dresses with embossed black velvet Scottie dogs. Aren’t they adorable??

     Memory is the brain’s mechanism of storing information. As I looked at six years’ worth of delightful memories, reminiscing about Christmases past, I was reminded how quickly years slip away and how dramatically life changes.

     The day came when my oldest grandchild, Sydney, told me she didn’t want me to get her clothing exactly like her younger sister’s. Sydney was becoming her own individual. While my granddaughter’s declaration caused momentary wistful sadness, I honored her wishes. The following photo, which includes Sydney’s and Mackenzie’s younger brother, Jackson, shows the last Christmas outfits I purchased for these kiddos.

     Everyone reading this post holds special memories. Some memories are sweet, filled with joy; some memories are bitter, perhaps filled with trauma.

     Memories related to loss and grief fall on a continuum of bittersweet.

     My story of loss related to my grandchildren growing up is almost all sweetness, holding only a slight a tinge of bitter.

     One woman with whom I spoke recently is dealing with the trauma of recent divorce. She’s reeling from the reality her 25-year marriage has ended. This woman’s fresh memories are raw, filled with much bitterness. All I can do is encourage her to keep taking care of herself, assuring her that in time, sweetness will once again be possible.

     A woman I met at the Ceremony of Remembrance shared with me that 26 years after the death of her infant son, she’s finally taking time to take care of her emotional needs and grieve her deep loss, which as a single mom, she’d been unable to do. This woman exemplifies the timelessness of loss, grief and recovery.

People may die, but love will never die, and relationship will never die.

~ Pastor Rodney Wright

     Whatever memory you hold this blessed season, I’m praying God will add a new measure of peace and joy to your remembrances…

Sue Reeve

Celebrating the Good Gift of Remembrance

Sue Reeve

     The first Saturday of each December, Lake City Church sponsors a community event called Ceremony of Remembrance. It’s a very special time when people gather to remember loved ones who have died. Ron and I attended for the first time this year.

     One reason I wanted to go to the Ceremony was to hear the keynote speaker, Dr. Jerry Sittser. Several years ago, Jerry and his family were returning home, and a drunk driver, traveling at a high rate of speed, crossed the median and hit their family minivan head on. Jerry’s mother, wife and young daughter were killed instantly. He, along with three other children, survived. Dr. Sittser’s book, A Grace Disguised, had a profound impact on me. It’s the most meaningful work on loss and grief I’ve read.

     Christmas is a time that evokes many memories.

     Most of my Christmas memories are pleasant. Memories from two different Christmases still sting, but for the most part I’ve reconciled the pain and have been able to tuck unpleasant thoughts away in my mind’s back closet.

     Each December, I’m reminded of a Christmas I felt certain was destined to be unhappy, but instead, it has become one of my most cherished memories.

     A month earlier, my divorce had been finalized, and all during December, a cloud of doom and gloom hung over me. December 24th, my mom and dad arrived to spend Christmas Eve with my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter and me in the tiny little house, located across the road from railroad tracks, I was renting at that time—all I could afford on my secretary salary and child support income.

     Angie had no inkling all was not well in her little world. She adored her grandparents, and they adored her. She was delighted by the little Christmas tree, festooned with bright bulbs and lights, and ecstatic about all the “pwesents” under the tree. Her bubbly, bouncy personality brought so much joy and laughter. But, Angie went to bed before 8:00 p.m., which left several hours for me to deal with heartbreaking memories and the foreboding of a fearful future.

     Christmas Eve didn’t keep Mom from going to bed at her usual early hour. Afterward, Dad and I hunkered down to watch TV. As nighttime deepened, we could see through the window snow was falling.

     Midnight was nearing when Dad asked if I’d like to go for a walk. We donned coats, hats, gloves, boots and scarves, and left the house, prepared to walk into Christmas morn. The night was perfect—much like a scene concluding one of the Hallmark Christmas movies. Not even a slight breeze disturbed the silent night. Huge wet snowflakes fell softly from an inky sky. Beams of light from the moon and streetlamps sparkled on freshly fallen snow.

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     There was something so special about that brand-new blanket of snow. For a brief time, it insulated me from the interior noise that had clanged in my soul for many months. The snow’s unmarred freshness spoke to my spirit about a clean slate, the promise of new beginning.

     I had not yet read Dr. Sittser’s book the night of that walk, but when I read these words from A Grace Disguised, it reminded me of my period of personal loss. “However difficult…I had to learn how to build a new life for myself and my family. My new circumstances were a given; my response was not. The tragedy became the catalyst for creative action.”

     Dad and I didn’t speak during the walk. Our only communication was the unspoken camaraderie between a father and his child. Looking back on that event, I think I sensed that I could trust my dad would be there for me, and I believe on some spiritual level, I knew my earthly father’s trustworthiness was a reflection of that of my Heavenly Father.

     After Dr. Sittser’s talk, the names of those being remembered were read aloud. Loved ones walked to the front of the sanctuary to place an ornament representing departed grandparents, parents, children and friends on a Christmas tree. Along with 300 others, Ron and I hung our ornaments. Ron’s were in memory of his mom, dad and older brother, who passed away in February. My two ornaments honored a dear friend and my dad.

     I’d highlighted many passages in A Grace Disguised. One said, “I want to honor the dead who have gone before me and bless the living who will come after me. Whether and to what extent I succeed will depend on the choices I made and the grace I receive.”

     At the Ceremony of Remembrance—and in the words of this blog post—I honor my earthly father who has gone before me. The grace I received during the walk Dad and I took that long ago Christmas Eve helped me walk into a season of healing and enabled me to bless those living who were to come after me.

Dear God, This day, I thank you for the gift of lovely remembrance. Thank you for the grace you give, enabling and empowering us to walk beyond painful loss.

May your memories—no matter how sad—be sweetened with God’s grace this Christmas season….

Sue