The siblings fought about everything after their mother died. They argued about where the service should be held, what to do with her belongings, and how to write the obituary. As the hospice chaplain, I perceived this was not a new way for the brother and sister to communicate. It seems they had been mad at each other a long time. The biggest argument I witnessed between the two was about the memorial for their mother, the son wanted to give money to Hospice, the daughter wanted it to go to another charity. They fought hard and heavy over this.
In her book, Return to the Root: Reflections on the Inner Life, author Joyce Rupp writes about having a flat tire while driving on a busy highway. As she sat on the side of the road waiting for assistance a man stopped and knocked on her window. “I passed by but something in me said I had to turn around and come back to help you,” he told her. Even though she had roadside assistance coming and was going to say so, she writes that she accepted his offer because, “a certain eagerness in his voice stopped me.”
The man began to tell Rupp about a stroke he had and a recent battle with cancer and how his experiences led him to work with children who have cancer. On the day he stopped to help her, he said, he had received word about the death of a six year old boy who was especially dear to him. With tears in his eyes, he explained the real reason he had stopped to help her. “I knew I had to do something to honor that young boy’s life. I had to help you.”
When a beloved dies we struggle with how to manage our grief, and most of us seek ways to keep their memory alive. There are park benches and sculptures and stained glass windows, all lovely semblances of a shared love. But even though these memorials are beautiful and meaningful, doesn’t showing compassion actually bring the most honor to someone we miss? Isn’t sharing the love that we have been given by one who has passed the best way to bring tribute to that love?
To say to the world, I have known a gentle person and therefore I will be gentle. I have loved a kind person, therefore I will strive to be kind. I have been inspired and taught by a selfless person, therefore I will choose selflessness.
We can remember our deceased loved ones in all sorts of important and lovely ways; but it seems to me giving back to the world, sharing love, delivering grace, being compassionate to others is the very best memorial we can offer.
You are the light of the world!