New Year's Reflections
The end of the year approaches. Many take stock of their personal accomplishments in the last year. Some of us think of those we have lost. Many of us look at the joyful things that took place. The end of the year causes many of us to think of what the year has meant to us and to make promises to ourselves—to make changes or set goals for the coming year. New Years Day is the time for change. For me I like to think about thematic changes I want to make for the year. For me, I hope the New Year brings about more connections with other people. I hope this theme means helping people who work in the alternative death care industry come together to share knowledge and support. I hope that we in the alternative death care industry can come together to make a bigger impact on the conventional perception of death care. I hope that together we can be stronger. I hope that together we can bring death care out of the shadows so that more people will know their rights and options at the time of death. I wish all you, dear readers, a beautiful New Year. I wish that the coming year brings you all good things, and that together we can do greater things for our communities.
Our Invitation to You
Many of us work in the alternative death care industry in the Midwest. We spend our lives educating and assisting those in our communities on how to have simple and traditional burials. Many of us work alone – without much support. Some of us do not let those around us know about what we do because sometimes it can just be too much for new acquaintances to know. We work a lot of our time in isolation in this work, yet we keep doing this work because we know how important it is to our communities. We at the Midwest Green Burial Society and Beyond the Pall are working on a way to keep us connected and aware of this work in all areas of the Midwest. We hope that we can grow stronger together through sharing and asking questions of one another. Consider this an invitation to each and every one of you working in the alternative death care industry. We hope to gain your input into the creation of such a community. We have already been working on this idea for a while, but need input so that we can make this a strong network. Together we can do anything we set our minds to.
Contact me through this blog by sending me a contact form or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Please include Community in the subject line so that I can better track the information.
Thank you all for all the work you do for everyone in your communities.
Sorting Through Christmas
My father died June 29, 2008. When I look at the calendar I know we have been living without him for almost ten years. In my heart it still feels like yesterday and that is probably why it has taken my sister and me almost ten years to begin to sort through Dad’s Christmas tree stuff. Many of you who read this blog probably anticipate a tree and dad story this time of year - this is it. The first year after my dad’s death, my husband told me I could not stop Christmas from coming by not putting up a tree. That year I put up a small elegant tree with my sliver ornaments. It took me twenty minutes to put up. Each year I struggle with the tree. I love the tree. I love the lights, and the juxtaposition of ornaments. My sister and I were trained from a young age on how to arrange ornaments so that they would have the biggest impact on the viewer. We make beautiful trees – stunning trees. When we were young people would come over just to look at the trees. People would try to photograph them, but they could not be photographed. The whole tree had to be digested. They had to be experienced.
Just before Thanksgiving, I realized just how long it had been since anyone had seen his little tree. My youngest son who is now eleven was only eighteen months old when my father died. He has no memories of any of Dad’s trees. That thought shook me. We had all of his stuff exactly where he left it, and we just did not want to sort through the many boxes. I knew this could not go on. We had to sort through at least his small tree this year. I would put up my portion of the tree this year. (Mind you, a fraction of any tree my father had would be more than enough. Dad gave up some of the ornaments he did not use anymore a few years before he died, and rest assured, those make a fine tree.) I asked my sister if she would come over and sort through them. It took us two Saturdays to sort through and divide. Each piece held, discussed and place to one side or the other. Each piece was more beautiful than the last. Each piece held so many memories. I began to wonder what fueled this energy to create these Christmas trees. I can speculate, but I would only be speculating.
When all the pieces were sorted, the weight of the process hit me. Why had we waited? Part of me thinks that perhaps we waited because we did not really want to look too long at his absence. We had moved on with our own trees, and our own celebrations, and we did not want to go through his stuff. Maybe we hoped he would come walking through the door again and pick up where he had left off. Probably we waited because we knew sorting through his things would bring us pain. Who likes to walk knowingly into a situation you are sure will cause you pain? This Christmas, when the tree goes up, it will look so beautiful, but in my heart I will be missing my daddy. I would love to have him telling stories and laughing that big laugh of his. Things can remind us of our love ones, but they can never come close to filling the space they leave in our lives once they are gone.
As I sat looking out at my son’s Winter Band Concert, I felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of the multiple lives all gathered together to celebrate the beauty of the music our children worked so hard to learn. We were gathered there, connected to at least one child we each loved. I thought of how unique we each were, and how each of us was a particular combination of genes, experience and desire. I thought how each of us live just a certain amount of time, and then our lives pass on. How brief our lives exist in the great scope of time, yet how brightly we can each shine in this life of ours. Maybe we do not shine all the time, but we can and do shine from time to time – especially when we act with love and desire. When we shine, we make the lives around us richer and better. May we all strive to shine particularly in this season where many of us celebrate light.