This past Saturday I attended a Ceremony of Remembrance that was presented by the church I attend. It is an annual ceremony but I had never attended it before, not having reason to do so. I must tell you that it was a wonderful experience and a wonderful gift that the church offers to its congregation.
Registration for the ceremony was offered several weeks ago, but no one was turned away for not having registered previously. Upon arriving, we were given the chance to choose an ornament to place on the Christmas tree in honor of the loved one being remembered and a marker to write on it. There were 2 different shapes of ornaments: round and heart shaped. There was also an assortment of colors from which to choose. I hadn’t thought of it before, but the colors would be very important to some people, for instance, my nephew passed at the tender age of 6 (hit by a car) and his very favorite color was green. His siblings wrote messages on green balloons at his funeral and “sent them up to him”.
I chose a red heart for my father ( I think because my heart is still bleeding for him) and a white heart with sparkly green swirls for my nephew.
After enjoying a wonderful brunch in the foyer of the church, we went into the worship area for prayers, hymns and a presentation by author and grief support facilitator, Joanne Petrie. She was a wonderful speaker and stressed that grief may come not only from the loss of a person, but the loss of a situation – divorce, the loss of a job, the loss of a home, (and I’ll add, in the case of many caregivers, the loss of freedom or the life once lived). She also stated that recovering from grief does not put you back to “normal” but leads you to accept a “new normal”. How profound.
After the presentation, there was another song and then the names of all loved ones represented on this day were read one by one. As the name was read, the family members came up to the tree and placed the ornament there. Many stood for a moment of silence or placed a kiss on the ornament. Many cried.
The ceremony ended in prayer for those we had lost and for those who will carry on. Hugs abounded.
I am now a fan of Ceremonies of Remembrance. It was a wonderful experience and something that a family member or friend could do each year without traveling to a graveside which might be a long distance away. I hope that many churches, temples and synagogues will adopt this kind of ceremony if they have not already done so.
I must add that the ornaments were given back to the family members at the end of the ceremony and now my father’s ornament rests on our tree at home in a place of honor. (I will send my nephew’s ornament to my sister.)
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