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Remember a Loved One's Death: Sharing Those Memories With Others

I grew up attending wakes and funerals to remember my relatives' lives. This article shows my personal way of marking my husband's passing.

"The soul of man is the candle of God."

My husband Bill died on January 6, 2013, from complications of his long and patient battle with Muscular Dystrophy. To honor his memory, I donated to several causes and because he was, and I am, ardent Roman Catholics, I'd also have Masses said. However, as the anniversary day approached at the beginning of 2014, I wanted to do something special and more personal.

"The light of God is the soul of man."

"The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, searching all the innermost parts of his being."

These variations of Proverbs: 20: 27 equating God's light with a man's soul or spirit clarified my internal debates about how to define my late husband. He was the light of our lives while living, and his light lives on for our family and close friends.

How to remember that light?


My husband and I

My husband and I

The Remembrance

Embracing An Idea

We have some family members and several friends who are Jewish, so I was familiar with Yahrzeit. This is a German/Yiddish word meaning “year’s time.” The Jewish tradition is to annually commemorate a loved one’s death. The tradition usually includes lighting a 24-26-hour candle at sunset on the eve of the Yahrzeit and to leave it burning until the flame extinguishes itself.

Answering a Need

So, planning and carrying through my own Yahrzeit commemoration of Bill's spirit appeared to answer my need. My three adult children also wanted to commemorate their Dad, but only one was able to make the time I selected which turned out to be Sunday, January 5 at sunset.

My planning turned out well and I intend to maintain this practice making it a tradition. Perhaps in the coming years, more of the family will be invited and attend. My daughter and I lighted the candle and in turn read some of the psalms. Then we looked through her album of pictures and talked about the memories these prompted. It was just the right blend of ritual and remembrance. The evening turned out successfully for both of us.

Solo Remembrance

Seeing the candle flame in the living room after my daughter left and throughout the next day until it extinguished itself the evening of January 6 was indeed a comfort to me. (Incidentally, after our little ceremony I had to put the candle in a secure location where my cat would not knock it over.) I really like thinking of Bill as a continuous light in our lives.


My husband and one of our daughters.

My husband and one of our daughters.

Prayers as the Candle is Lighted

Beth Elohim Temple - Wynnewood, PA.

"Sustained by words of faith, comforted by precious memories, we kindle the light in remembrance. “The human spirit is the light of Adonai” (Proverbs 20:27). As this light is pure and clear, so may the blessed memory of the goodness and nobility of character of our dear husband and father illumine our souls."

The light is kindled. The following may be said: "His memory is a blessing."

Choose from more prayers at the websites of Temple Beth Am - Pinecrest, FL 33156 (Miami-Dade County) and Temple Emmanuel, Newton, MA.

Remembering

Light is an eternal source of strength.

Light is an eternal source of strength.

Psalms that May be Read

My daughter and I read these psalms in turn:

  • Psalm 21 (The king rejoices);
  • an old favorite is Psalm 23 (The caring shepherd);
  • Psalm 121 (I will lift up my eyes);
  • and the last two perhaps a little heavy and somber, but appropriate nonetheless are Psalm 130 (De Profundis, Out of the depths) and Psalm 142 (I cried unto the Lord.)

Find Psalms and other readings online at The World English Bible (WEB) a Public Domain (no copyright) Modern English translation of the Holy Bible.

My personal preference for reading aloud is the older forms of English:

The following version of Psalm 23 is from The World English Bible (WEB):

"Yahweh is my shepherd: I shall lack nothing.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."

Sunflower - looks toward the Sun which is its Source of Strength

how-to-remember-the-anniversary-of-a-loved-ones-death

Rituals and Daily Life

My Favorite Photo of my Husband

Bill Bramlage Digging Planting Holes for Blueberries, Leverett, MA. May 1971.

Bill Bramlage Digging Planting Holes for Blueberries, Leverett, MA. May 1971.

Steps in Organizing a Remembrance Ceremony

The time required for the Remembrance Ceremony: Thirty to sixty minutes.

Cost: As little as $2; as high as $125 if purchasing all materials

Materials:

  • 1. Picture of your loved one and / or a meaningful statue or religious symbol, like a crucifix. ($25)
  • 2. Table cover that enhances the mood of your environment. ($35)
  • 3. One candle that will burn for 24 to 26 hours. Buy a yahrzeit candle at the grocery store or a local Jewish synagogue, or buy a 6-Inch beeswax column online. The beeswax columns and votives are especially suitable and have a light fragrance. ($1 - $5)
  • 4. Impervious mat of some sort to prevent damage to table or chest surface from heat or dripping wax. ($5 - $10)
  • 5. Books that contain the psalms or other inspirational quotations. ($5 - $20) Save money use internet links.
  • 6. Gentle music that is meaningful to you ($25). Again, save money. Download MP3 selections.

Center of the Remembrance Ceremony

A Cherry-wood Chest Adorned with Candles and Autumn Bittersweet

A Cherry-wood Chest Adorned with Candles and Autumn Bittersweet

Instructions:

1. Choose a suitable location for your ritual. I choose to use the top of a cedar chest that sits in front of a north-facing bow window. The window niche accommodates my small orchid collection. Seasonally influenced designed cloths and decorations usually cover the chest.

Colors

My Favorite Colors

My Favorite Colors

2. Cover a flat area in your chosen location with a unique cloth of arrangement from nature. Material and designs may vary from refined to ethnic; colors from subdued mono-colors to vibrant multicolors.

San Damiano Crucifix

A Personal Favorite Source of Reflection

A Personal Favorite Source of Reflection

A Crucifix may inspire meaning.

3. Place picture(s), candle, meaningful symbol and perhaps a potted plant or vase of cut flowers on the covered surface.

Stones as a Memorial

Within the Jewish faith, it is customary to leave a small stone on the grave. Placing a stone on the grave serves as a sign to others that someone has visited the grave.

Within the Jewish faith, it is customary to leave a small stone on the grave. Placing a stone on the grave serves as a sign to others that someone has visited the grave.

4. Bring participants to the area; make sure that they are comfortably seated or standing in a good location. Invite participants to place items that remind them of the person you are celebrating on the table top.

Light as Spirit

how-to-remember-the-anniversary-of-a-loved-ones-death

5. Deliver your dedication if you have one. Light the candle; begin with the readings. Don't forget the matches!

One of My Favorite Books of Psalms: The Psalms of David 1st Edition

1st Edition by James S. Freemantle (Author), Stephen Freemantle (Author)

1st Edition by James S. Freemantle (Author), Stephen Freemantle (Author)

6. Read chosen selections either by yourself or sharing with others. If you do this ceremony by yourself, I suggest that you read aloud; it lends solemnity to the ritual.

Tea and Conversation

how-to-remember-the-anniversary-of-a-loved-ones-death

7. Once the candle is lighted and readings proclaimed, if you have family or friends participating, you might want to take time for simple refreshments. This is a great time, alone or with others, to look through photo albums or memorabilia and reminisce.

Remember by Giving a Helping Hand

how-to-remember-the-anniversary-of-a-loved-ones-death

Some Customs for Remembering a Loved One

how-to-remember-the-anniversary-of-a-loved-ones-death

© 2014 Georgene Moizuk Bramlage

I hope this Hub Page brings solace and ideas to those who may need some comfort.

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage (author) from southwestern Virginia on April 09, 2016:

Mickie, My condolences! I try to do the same thing with my grandchildren who range in age from 7 yrs to almost 16. I think the worst thing that we can do is act as though no one cares.

Mickie Gee on July 16, 2015:

Remembering my husband (he died in July 2014) is so healing for me. I try to help my grandchildren remember him often by talking about some of the fun things he used to do with them. I think it is good to talk about a loved one.

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage (author) from southwestern Virginia on May 09, 2015:

Barb, Thanks for your comments. Yes, each of us has to grieve and remember in his / her own way. You are fortunate to be able to reminisce with your husband.

Barbara Radisavljevic from Paso Robles, CA on May 07, 2015:

I'm a bit more informal in my remembrances. Usually the time after a memorial service is given to sharing memories and looking at photos. This was especially true when my daughter died and all who knew her well were trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle of her life and death together. As far as the anniversary dates of the others in my life, I remember in my heart what they have meant to me, and my husband and I share our memories and the way we miss our son any time we are together and something kicks off a special memory.

Courtney Rhodes on November 22, 2014:

Very nice and thoughtful ways you have honored your husband! Thank you for sharing this. My father recently passed away and my children came up with the idea to plant a tree for him. He loved nature and was very spiritual. However, I couldn't decide what kind of tree to plant and until I until I read this..I'm going to look for a tree that blossoms yellow, my father's favorite color. A reading from the Book of Psalm would make an absolute beautiful memory when we finish planting too.

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage (author) from southwestern Virginia on March 03, 2014:

@SheilaSchnauzies: Sheila, Thank you for visiting my special lens and for your compliments about it.

Sheila from Omaha, NE on March 03, 2014:

What a lovely lens, thank you.

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage (author) from southwestern Virginia on February 06, 2014:

@aminebombom: Aimine, Thanks a million for stopping by, reading and commenting on this lens. All are much appreciated. Yes, I find myself remembering and be thankful for all my Mom and Dad taught me and they've been gone almost a decade now. Maybe, it's time for me to do my short ritual on their death days or better yet birthdays!

Amine from Doha, Qatar on February 06, 2014:

for me when i remember what he or she taught me i remember them, may god rest their souls.

well done Cercis

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage (author) from southwestern Virginia on February 05, 2014:

@LisaDH: Hi! Thanks so much for visiting and commenting upon my lens. What I did was actually a blending of the basic premise of Yahrzeit The soul of man is a light to the Lord) with some of my Roman Catholic beliefs such as my San Damiano crucifix. A simple ceremony like this does go a long way to bring the deceased loved one a bit closer.

LisaDH on February 05, 2014:

I've never heard of a Yahrzeit commemoration. It sounds like a lovely way to remember a loved one. I hope it helped ease your grief and bring you good memories of your time together.

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage (author) from southwestern Virginia on February 05, 2014:

@Heidi Vincent: Hi FreshStart, Thanks for stopping by and reading this lens as well as your condolences on Bill's passing. Yes, it was a sort of catharsis for me to write this out as "how-to-do-it" I had really hoped that readers might be able to adapt the ceremony for their use.

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage (author) from southwestern Virginia on February 05, 2014:

@David Stone1: Hi Dave, Thanks so much for stopping by and reading this lens, and for your astute comments. We were lucky in that Bill's syndrome was present throughout most of our married life, we had ten very good years together as they began to worsen. A friend of mine recently reminded me (!) that marriage is the most intimate relationship humans enjoy.

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage (author) from southwestern Virginia on February 05, 2014:

@shellys-space: Hi! Thanks for stopping by and reading my lens, and leaving your insightful comments. Anniversaries are, IMHOP, very important. The spirit is still with us.

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage (author) from southwestern Virginia on February 05, 2014:

@DawnRae64: Hi Dawn, Thank you for stopping by my lens and commenting upon it. I am glad that you appreciated its beauty.

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage (author) from southwestern Virginia on February 05, 2014:

@esmonaco: Hey Sam! Thanks for stopping by this lens, taking the time to read and comment upon it. All are appreciated. Thank you for your sentiment...I like to think that Bill is watching over me.

Eugene Samuel Monaco from Lakewood New York on February 05, 2014:

A wonderful tribute to your husband, I wish you all the best for years to come, and hope that you find comfort in knowing that Bill is watching over you.

Dawn from Maryland, USA on February 05, 2014:

Beautiful lens. Thank you.

Shelly Sellers from Midwest U.S.A. on February 05, 2014:

You have some wonderful ways to honor those who are not with us any longer. One year, after the death of my brother, our Church did an evening memorial for him and it was lovely.

David Stone from New York City on February 05, 2014:

A lovely lens with a genuine spirit that's terrifically had to put into words this. I'm guessing your husband appreciated your devotion as much in life as you have shown here.

This lens stands as a tribute to you as well.

Heidi Vincent from GRENADA on February 05, 2014:

First of all, cercis, let me express condolences to you on the passing of your beloved husband. Thanks for sharing this lens which I am sure will be a blessing to many.

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage (author) from southwestern Virginia on February 04, 2014:

@MBurgess: Hi Maria, Thank you so very much for stopping by this lens, reading and commenting upon it. Yes, this is one way to promote healing in an emotional life, and a sane one when it expresses the sentiments of both living and dead - ie my husband and I were somewhat alike in our religious and emotional preferences. I do appreciate all your comments.

Maria Burgess from Las Vegas, Nevada on February 03, 2014:

It is not an easy task to let go when someone we love is taken from this world. Through exercises like the one you describe, healing can and will happen. Thank you for sharing this experience and advice.

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage (author) from southwestern Virginia on February 03, 2014:

@WinWriter: Hi again WW! Thank you so much for stopping by, reading and commenting on this lens. All are very much appreciated. It took a lot of effort for me to get it "just right." The Psalms are really my favorite prayers - there is something in the book for everyone and every occasion.

WinWriter on February 03, 2014:

A beautiful lens and tribute to your husband. Psalm 23 is one of my favorite psalms (along with 139.) Many blessings to you :)

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage (author) from southwestern Virginia on January 29, 2014:

@Nancy Hardin: Dear Nancy Carol, Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read and comment on my newest lens. I am glad that you found it a comforting lens; makes all the work of writing it worthwhile. Doing a small ritual can be very comforting as a tradition because we set aside a certain period of time to remember.

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage (author) from southwestern Virginia on January 29, 2014:

@Brite-Ideas: Hi! Thanks so much for stopping by this brand new lens and taking the time to not only comment, but share our experiences. My adult children also say that the thing they miss is not being able telephone Dad when they have questions or something to share. Also, like you, I have lighted hundreds of candles mostly in European churches.

Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on January 29, 2014:

a lovely lens - I wish I could talk to my dad, it will be a year in March - trying to find a way to accept he's not a phone call away, or that I can hug him, or his loving smile of reassurance - thank you for this page; we light candles most of the time we go to church

Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on January 29, 2014:

This is undoubtedly one of the most comforting lenses I've ever read. I will take your suggestions to heart, and remember my loved ones in this way. I'm familiar with Yahrzeit, as I was once a secretary to a Rabbi, but I had not thought about it in years. This is a beautiful and fitting way to remember my Mom and Dad and sister. Thanks you for sharing.

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