In life we meet people, build relationships and some are easy to define: boss, co-worker or business acquaintance. Sometimes, the lines blur and a woman who was my boss, has since transferred to another department and remains my friend cannot be categorized. The bottom line is, after years of battling to stay healthy, her husband died this past week and now, if she must be given a term to define her it is, "grieving spouse," for she does not appreciate the word, "widow."
To honor the life of her departed husband, a memorial service was organized and held at her niece's home. I had never attended such an affair and was a bit apprehensive, though these situations are understandably nerve wracking regardless of location and agenda. Dying is only difficult for the living.
We have created such protocols and checklists for the end of a life. Be sure to tell the family you are sorry for their loss. Try to share a positive story or memory with the loved ones of the departed when possible. Offer comfort, a shoulder to cry on and time to listen. Perhaps send flowers and/or a sympathy or mass card.
However, we are among a generation that has written its own rules and traditions be damned. The Baby Boomers will decide how they want to honor the lives of their cherished family and in doing so, anything can happen. This is not bad or a judgment in any way - merely an observation. Just as brides no longer have to wear white, be married in a church or place of worship or even toss a bouquet - survivors are not bound to adhere to society's definition of acknowledging loss or death.
Though the images of the gorgeous repast are decadent, they also symbolize the love a family has for the "grieving spouse."
The fruit arrangement was thoughtfully sent by a caring person or family for the occasion and the cupcakes were freshly baked.
Simple fruits, cheeses and nuts were carefully presented on tiered plates. Finger foods designed to allow mourners not only refreshment, but food has a way of easing people into conversation. "Don't these cherries look amazing? How did you know so-and-so?"
Having food in more than one location also allows people to gather into smaller groups that may feel more intimate and comfortable during a difficult time.
Offering small bites also indicates you are welcome and we are thankful you came to support our family.
When I prepared to leave and said my good-byes, condolences and thank you's, I was given a copy of "Footprints."
One night I dreamed a dream. I was walking along the beach with my Lord. Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to me and one to my Lord.
When the last scene of my life shot before me I looked back at the footprints in the sand. There was only one set of footprints. I realized that this was at the lowest and saddest time of my life. This always bothered me and I questioned the Lord about my dilemma.
'Lord, You told me when I decided to follow You, You would walk and talk with me all the way. But I'm aware that during the most troublesome times of my life there is only one set of footprints. I just don't understand why, when I need You most, You leave me.'
He whispered, 'My precious child, I love you and will never leave you, never, ever during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."
My 20-something year old sons find it odd that I have expressed that when I die, I'd rather they not have multiple drawn out days of wakes and a funeral, but rather one combined service encouraging those who have a story to share to speak followed by a communal dinner of sorts reflecting on the good times. And yes, I would like a particular song to be played and I have mentioned this detail to the Mr. and someday will share it with my sons.
For now, enjoy each day when possible and every meal that is shared with the people you love. I know that those are the moments that make me happiest and leave me feeling Fed Well.