On celebrating death

In a few weeks our family will be faced with the dreaded anniversary of my mom’s death. The last year has been exhausting, confusing, and healing all in one. We have cried and we have laughed. Time has done that strange thing it does, where the wound closes just enough to allow you to live, but never enough not to leave a scar.

Shortly after my mom passed away, it would have been her 50th birthday. We had a balloon release party for her, early on the morning of that day. The children and I, along with my dad wrote her notes and tied them to teal balloons, the color of cervical cancer, then released them to her in the sky.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the upcoming anniversary date. Wondering how our little family can honor Nana, on the day she left this earth and entered into heaven. It feels strange to call it a celebration. Not quite a day to party. Right?

At first I said, “No, no way, we won’t have a party on that day!” But then I got to thinking. What if, what if we did have a party?

Why can’t we celebrate the amazing legacy she left us – the wonderful memories we have? Who is to say we can’t honor her journey to heaven, knowing that though we’re here heartbroken, she’s no longer sick or in pain?

That’s when I decided to do it. To have a Heaven Day, a day where we celebrate this amazing woman. A day that we honor her.

We will make waffles using her recipe, and bake a cake (a favorite past time between my mom and middle son). We will write her notes, and head to a local pond to feed the ducks (one of the kid’s most cherished memories with her).

Will we cry? Likely. Will we grieve? Of course. But we will also smile, knowing we’re keeping her alive in our hearts. We will remember and we will laugh and we will love her as fiercely as we did when she was here in our presence. We will celebrate because we know she’s in the most amazing place. We know there is grace and love and forgiveness. We know there is healing and acceptance. We know we will see her, again.

The kids are overjoyed with the idea, and I feel immense relief that I’ve been able to come up with a plan, a way to honor and love my mama. Our Heaven Day is on October 28.

Since losing my mom I’ve made some wonderful new connections-turned-friends. Other motherless daughters, fatherless sons, widows, and mamas grieving children gone too soon.

Is that you, as well? I hope that if you are nearing a difficult anniversary such as the one we’re facing, maybe you too can see it in a new way.

I hope you will see a tiny light in an otherwise dark day. If that’s you, my love and thoughts and prayers go with you.

Cheers to celebrating death, cheers to celebrating life.

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17 Comments

  1. Bron

    Thank you for your writing…..we have the 10 th angel day this week coming for our 8 year old daughter….even after all this time it is still tricky…you have given me some things to think on . Hope your day is filled either all those beautiful memories. Xx

  2. Jamie

    Beautiful idea, Angie! Blessings on you all as you remember…

  3. Sarah Erickson

    Wise words. My parents are long gone, but my sister and I meet up on the anniversary of my mother’s passing at one of mom’s favorite restaurants and have lunch in her honor. And every August 10th, my father’s anniversary of passing, I take someone out for ice cream and a heart to heart, just like Dad used to do with me when I was a kid. It makes me feel closer to my parents in celebrating their lives rather than mourning them.

  4. SuseFish

    Yes, that’s me too, dear Angie, and I will say that time does heal. With every year that passes, the mourning becomes less and the joy of memories that can never fade grows stronger. You’re right to celebrate and keep your mum’s memory alive… my daughter loves hearing anecdotes about “Nanny in Heaven” and from time to time I’ll post them on Facebook too. Because who these women were hasn’t stopped – it’s just happening somewhere else now. Blessings, sweetie x

  5. Dalinda

    I was touched reading your post…but when I got to the October 28th part- I knew it was written for me to read. October 28 will be the 1 year anniversary of my dad’s passing and I have been dreading that day. I’m goIng to try to approach it differently and celebrate him and the peace I have knowing where he is. October 28 will be my Heaven Day, too. Thank you for writing this and I will be thinking about you on that day also.

  6. Marnita Sonnenberg

    We bought a rose to plant outside on the first anniversary of my mom in law’s passing. My son came up with red as they were her favourite roses..

  7. Jessica Wolstenholm

    Angie, I am so sorry for your loss. We just celebrated the year anniversary of my mom’s death on Oct 11. We gathered together for a wonderful family dinner in her honor. She loved it when we sat around the table together. We talked about her (something we are just lately able to do) and we looked at old folders. I love what you are doing and the heart you share here. Their legacy must live on in joy, not sorrow. Praying you have a wonderful celebration next week.

    • Jessica Wolstenholm

      That would be old pictures, not folders. Ha! Silly auto correct. My mom hated folders or anything businessy. 🙂

  8. Julia

    Such timely words. We are headed to a family funeral tomorrow. And a former colleague who lost her son and daughter-in-law last year shared this powerful quote on Facebook, as they continue to grieve and celebrate:
    “…the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.”
    ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  9. Kim

    My mom just passed away today. She would have been 80 on October 27.

    • Terri

      We will be celebrating her life. Let’s have a party for Mom, on Tuesday, 27th Oct.
      The Lord is gracious, full of comfort and strength. I will be remembering the way she always said “I look in the mirror and wonder who that little ole lady is.”
      Love you mom!!!

  10. Jules Gee

    What a very sweet idea. Our loved ones live on through us and our treasured memories.

  11. Skye

    This November marks five years since my four-day-old son passed away. He has two older siblings and now two younger siblings. Every year on his birthday we celebrate his birthday with a party and a day of doing fun activities as a family. It helps my husband and I grieve and also brings us closer together as a family. The day of his death my husband and I go to our Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) Temple to celebrate that families are eternal and we will one day see our son again. I hope you have a beautiful Heaven Day and you can feel peace as you reminisce your mother.

  12. charis

    we released balloons with notes attached the past 2 of my dad’s birthdays. (yesterday actually!) i like that we can celebrate his life on his birthday with all his grandkids and my siblings and my mom. the day he died was on my wedding anniversary, so i chose to do special things on his actual birthday so that my anniversary could remain a special day and not only about my dad’s death.

  13. Kristi

    October 25 is the 2nd anniversary of my dad’s sudden death (workplace accident). Ironically, I’ve found the second year more difficult than the first (most likely because I was busy with a newborn in the first year). I’ve been dreading this anniversary.

    Thank you for your thoughts on this. I hope we will mark the day memorably as well.

  14. Kim

    I’m so sorry. However, that sounds absolutely perfect. My dad has been gone for 9 1/2 years now, passing just after his 50th birthday, and each year we get together and do something fun. The day is about spending time as a family, no one grieving or remembering alone. The plan is Disney for the big 10, though previous years have just been small things.

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