“For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
June 3, 2018 marks a decade since my husband died. It’s been 52 years since we met and 50 years since our wedding day on May 18, 1968. Despite passing time, the memories of our life together are as close as my heart.
Why don’t I let it go and try to forget? I don’t want to forget. I want to honor our time together and the staying power of love.
Grief is the way love feels now.
Creating Ritual Alone
I wrote Vic a love letter on our Golden Wedding anniversary and shared what’s happening in our family, including our painful watch over his mother who is 102 and suffering. Sharing the news might include love and longing, but also unhealed wounds. In a private letter, we can share it all. What would you write?
That evening, I picked lilacs and cherry blossoms and walked to the forest. After placing flowers on Vic’s cairn, I wrapped the bark of his favorite red oak with a wide yellow ribbon and tucked purple lilacs in the bow. Tears dripped on the pages as I read my letter out loud, my words co-mingling with the woodland bird symphony.
My letter included a scrumptious love poem by Deborah Gregory called “The Goddess and Her Green Man.” It also included lyrics of a Willie Nelson song sent by our old friend Rufus Diamant: “It’s Something You Get Through.” My tears were messengers of Love.
… love is bigger than us all
The end is not the end at all
It’s not somethin’ you get over
But it’s somethin’ you get through.
Creating Ritual with Family or Friends
On Vic’s tenth death anniversary next week, our son Anthony and I will visit Vic’s cairn together. Lupines along the trail will shout their purple joy the way they did the day Vic died. I’m sure we’ll pick a few to take to the cairn. I’ll choose a poem. Anthony will add his own ideas. Everything is welcome, including humor and good stories. We’ll share it all in an alchemical mix of tears and gratitude.
A ritual pause that day will help me notice the beauty surrounding me. Swallowtails will sip the Dame’s Rockets. I’ll notice the moss growing green on hard stone near Vic’s cairn. I’ll open my feelings in a sacred space strong enough to contain it all. Despite life’s losses and disappointments, I’ll remember beauty, gratitude, and love.
How could you honor your love and turn a grief anniversary into a sacred day? I hope ritual will soften the sharp edges and open your heart to love. I hope you’ll remember the precious briefness of our time on earth. I hope you’ll include regrets, resentments, and lingering conflicts since these are part of grieving, too.
In North Carolina, our son David and his wife Liz will create a ritual under a massive spreading oak they call “Vic’s tree.” Our family plans another woodland ritual for Vic in late July when all of us will gather here. It’s about remembering, not the timing. We want to honor the man who loved us well and taught us how to live and die.
If you’re new at creating ritual, there is no perfect way to honor grief. It’s about intention and receptivity, not getting it right. A reading, a candle, a song, or a walk to a meaningful place. Trust your intuition. Do what’s meaningful to you.
No matter what you choose, remembrance soothes pain and invites sacredness into our lives. Ritual brings those we miss close to our hearts.
How do you honor the ones you miss? Along with tears, remembering brings abiding love and closeness with others who grieve. For many ideas about creating grief ritual over recent years, see my Grief Ritual Archives. They begin in 2012 when I started blogging, but I’ve created a yearly ritual since 2008. For an article about creating community ritual, in this case in a Unitarian Church, see We Are Not Alone: A Community Ritual of Remembrance.