How do you commemorate your deceased loved ones?

Dad and the '35 Ford Coupe he built from a shell

Today marks the eleventh anniversary of my father’s death. While it’s always kind of an odd day, I do okay, overall, especially with more years passing since the original day my dad died. But it still hits me and makes me feel a bit funky. And I always make it a priority to honor him in my own way.

On this day, April 3, 2011, while I have a lot of work to do for my teaching job, I wear one of his Harley Davidson T-shirts, I’m writing this blog post, I’m working on writing the book that actually deals with my dad; and, later, I will crochet, watch the movie Elizabethtown (thank you, ma sista—a great, well-done movie dealing with the main character losing his dad and dealing with the planning and emotional journey to which I can so relate) and have a beer with dinner. I’ve also lit candles today for Dad. Overall, I’m keeping to myself today because I can.

Anniversaries are important days, whether they mark weddings, accidents, sobriety, deaths or our birthdays. I know that I need to officially commemorate important events like the anniversary of my father’s passing. It was a huge day for me back in 2000, a day that completely changed my life, both in positive and difficult ways. I was young (24-turning-25), I was stunned, and I was overwhelmed (with handling the estate, funeral and so forth).

Our body carries so many memories, and I’ve found in my own life and with others that more traumatic events definitely stay with us. As these anniversaries get closer, it’s amazing that even when we’re not focusing on or realizing the calendar day, our bodies know. For the last week, I’ve felt more fatigued, felt a bit more irritable and have had writing cravings. On a brighter note, my dad has been sending some signs he’s around more than usual, as well. A good Boulder friend has shared with me the cycles she’s witnessed in her adopted girls (ages seven and four), who have experienced much trauma in their lives; while my friend knows certain events and the actual dates, the girls don’t, yet my friend notices her girls “going through major stuff” around these significant times. While our society doesn’t always allow us to take off for certain days that may just be tougher in nature, it’s up to us to find ways of taking care of ourselves in the midst of needing a bit more tender-loving-care. Last year, for the tenth-year anniversary of my dad’s death, I spent the weekend in beautiful Buena Vista, CO, at a bed and breakfast with my dog, prioritizing hiking, writing and being.

Today I’ve received three calls and one e-mail message from loved ones simply expressing they’re thinking of me, which I appreciate so very much. Holidays, birthdays and anniversary days can be difficult to understand or even remember for many people, especially if they haven’t yet lost a parent or if the day is just not on their radar. Losing a parent is like joining a club (often unwillingly). Once you’re in the club, you get things that can’t be understood until experiencing the death of a parent—and not that I’d wish the latter on anyone, though we experience it at some point, of course. These death anniversaries just make me feel a bit more sensitive, but also closer to my father. While these days can be a little sad for anyone, I so encourage doing something that helps celebrate the person and helps us feel a little better and more peaceful—and remembering that the people we’ve physically lost really are always with us. Dad, I know you’re here, and I love you and miss you.

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9 thoughts on “How do you commemorate your deceased loved ones?

  1. I hope it was a peaceful and good day for you to remember your father. It’s more amazing to me every day how life seems to pass before our eyes way too quickly, and this is a reminder of that. Eleven years seems almost unbelievable since this happened. Thinking of you. God Bless!

    Love, Peace, and Joy,
    Mom 🙂

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  2. Hi Erika,
    I was out of town this weekend—with no computer access.. I was thinking of you also–remembering my dear brother–thinking of all the great memories(and not so great—LOL memories). I carry him in my heart and mind all the time. We celebrate who he was because he was so much a part of us and helped form what WE are today. My thougths and love are with you Erika. I love reading your posts–always hit home with me in some form or another 🙂
    Sometimes helps me put things in perspective 🙂
    Love you always,
    Aunt Kathy

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  3. a beautiful post – very very special!

    i write Haiku – have you ever tried – it become habit forming! you could write one to your dad…

    father died today
    as i close my eyes
    my tears wave good-bye

    (a Haiku Commemorating My Father Who Died May 18th, 2009)

    David in Maine USA

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  4. thank you for sharing…this post is my mom’s messsage to me…she died a day before my birthday in august and tomorrow is her birthday, which she never liked and i always tried to make special for her….you’ve inspired me in many ways, today… all blessings.

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