Our Welcoming Home!
by Jolene Hanig-Jones
One of the most difficult times in life is trying to offer some words or expressions of comfort when someone is grieving the death of a loved one. Sometimes, I will state the obvious, "There are no words..." and offer a hug. Most of the time, I feel so helpless because I want to "Do" something for the grieving person. I know it is important to let a person grieve in his or her own way and time. But--I still feel the need to "Do" something. We recently lost a very, dear friend, Joe, who was an absolute delight to know. The anniversary of my dad's passing was March 25th, too. I thought I would share some things I have done, or have been done for me, or others that have been comforting.
Share a Memory: One of the most important things you can do is share a memory about the one who has passed. People are comforted by memories and often times there are memories that may have been forgotten or not even known to the loved ones family and friends. It helps one to know that loved ones were loved, honored, and admired by others. One of the greatest gifts you can give anyone is to acknowledge the person that they were.
Our good friend, Joe, recently passed away. Janet and Joe are long time friends of ours. Both of them stood up with us at our wedding. Joe was a graduate of Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) and a professor at Community College of Allegheny County for 31 years. He was a civil engineer, taught engineering and mathematics, served in an advisory role at CCAC, loved the opera, and was so much more. Joe often sported tee shirts from his "schools" or a black turtle neck and was known for his suspenders. He had a variety of them, but the ones he favored were the ones that looked like a wide measuring tape. I found a tutorial on line for making memory pillows from shirts of loved ones. When I saw some made with suspenders, I knew I had to make them for Joe's wife of almost 60 years and his two daughters.
I found the tutorial on Pinterest. There are also people on line at Etsy and other sites that will make these pillows. A poem can be included with the pillow. In my case, I chose to sew a pocket on the back of the pillow. Then I printed the poem in a clip art frame of a rule. The next step was to reverse the image and print it on iron-on transfer paper. I bought handkerchiefs and ironed the image onto the handkerchief and put it in the pocket. I've seen pillows done with the image ironed right on the back of the shirt. Some people include a photo of the loved one.
Here is another poem that could be used:
My dad passed away on March 25, 2009. My mom gave me some of his suit coats and a blue velour robe. I was able to make memory bears for my mom and my brothers and sister from these items. My dad was a Chicago Cubs fan, so I ordered Chicago Cubs pins to add to some of the bears. Dad also served in the United States Army during the Korean War. I sewed an Army patch onto two of the bears.
This is a memory bear made for my brother Jeff. The blue velour is from Dad's robe. I added the United States Army patch to honor Dad and his service during the Korean War. My brother, Jeff, worked very hard to compile and retype letters he had written and that family and friends had written to him during his time in Korea into a spiral bound booklet. We had it printed and distributed to family members. It is a treasure!
This is a bear I made for my husband in memory of his older brother, Tom. Tom was a very sharp dresser, so using one of his suit coats was particularly important. I fashioned a tie from one of his ties and the tie tack was also his. Once again, you can search on Pinterest, Etsy, and on line in general for people who will make memory bears from loved ones clothing. I searched high and low for just the right pattern. I finally found it at a quilt shop. It is #166 Teddy Bear Magic, created and designed by Nancy J. Smith, Lynda S. Milligan, and Jane Dumler. ( I tried to locate a current source for this pattern, but was unsuccessful. There are some references to this pattern on line and some sellers on EBay have offered it.) I used fiberfill stuffing instead of the polyfill beads. This is a personal preference, but I had visions of beads going everywhere and anywhere, but into the bear. I stuff the bears loosely, so they will be cuddly and easy to position for sitting.
My mom's niece, Mona, gave Mom a beautifully written and illustrated book when my dad passed away. The book is titled: The Gift of a Memory, A Keepsake to Commemorate the Loss of a Loved One, by Marianne Richmond. Click on the image or the book titles for ordering information. The text of the book is so comforting. It truly touched my heart and made me feel like it was written just about Dad.
I like words and words put together in succinct and lyrical ways. I offer a few of my favorite lines from people who are much more clever than I am. Sometimes, it helps to find the right verse to share from one of the masters.
Perhaps they are not stars in the sky, but rather openings where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy.
- Eskimo saying
“In one of those stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night. And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend...I shall not leave you.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
My dad died on March 25 and my birthday was shortly after on March 30. My sister, Sandra, gave me two CD's that year. Both of them were favorite artists of my Dad's: Ann Murray and Jim Croce. It was such a thoughtful gift. It brought me back to times when Dad would dance around the dining room table and/or sing the songs with the album.
My good friend Joanne was my supervising teacher at Glick Elementary School in Marshalltown, Iowa. She is such a dear. Dick and Joanne made a dynamic team and had a positive impact on all who had the pleasure of knowing them. Joanne and her family honored Dick's passing in many beautiful ways.
One of the many generous, giving acts of this man, was that he rebuilt old bicycles and fixed them up for children in the neighborhood and community who couldn't afford a bike. Word got out that Dick was fixing bicycles for kids and people began dropping off bicycles and parts for Dick to use. He rebuilt over 200 bicycles and gave them away. At his memorial service, Dick's daughter, daughter-in-law, and granddaughters wore infinity scarves with a bicycle print to honor his loving spirit.
Additionally, red was Dick's favorite colors and family members chose to wear red in his memory for the funeral service..
Joanne and Dick's granddaughter, Ellen, is floral manager, and created the beautiful floral bouquet for Dick's funeral. She incorporated all red flowers in the design, with different flowers representing different family members. Red roses were used for the immediate family, including sons, daughter, and daughter-in-law. The gerber daisies were for the grandchildren. The baby roses were for the great-grandchildren, and another group was all of the grand-in-laws, with a few fillers added. To quote Joanne, "It was spectacular!"
Lastly, I'd like to share what I did to comfort me on the first anniversary of my dad's passing. Since I live 800 miles from my parent's home, my friends were unable to come to visitation and the funeral. They sent flowers and cards and were wonderfully supportive. But, on the one year anniversary of his passing, I decided I wanted to gather them around me. I invited them to dinner and I cooked some "memory foods". I made my mom's Italian spaghetti in the crock pot and served it with garlic bread. No, we weren't Italian, but I remember mom making this sauce and how "exotic" it was for us. We were basic meat, potato, and vegetable eaters from Iowa. We ate a lot of farm fresh food that one didn't want to spoil with ketchup and sauces. Mom's spaghetti sauce was a venture into something new. We all enjoyed it and it became a family favorite. I ended the meal with Dad' favorite dessert, banana cream pie. I bought a beautiful purple calla lily plant. The creamy, purple calla lilies were the same as those that were in our family bouquet for him. I shared a book my brother put together of letters my dad wrote and letter his relatives and friends had written to him when he served in the United States Army in the Korean War. They asked me question about him and it was very healing to talk about my dad. It was a comforting, delightful evening for me.
I share these ideas with the hope that they may inspire you when you are at a loss to console a friend and so fervently want to "Do" something. It has been a difficult post to write, but in the writing, I've become aware of the many beautiful things people have done to comfort others in their loss. I am also, very aware that sometimes it is in giving that we receive. In your attempt to give comfort, may you, too, be consoled.
I'd love to hear from you and have you share your stories of comfort.
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