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Remembering Them

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Have you lost a loved one?

What action have you taken to honor their memory and their life?

How do you keep the love you shared with them alive?

Whether your loved one died of natural causes, disease or even by suicide, survivors, mourners and the grief stricken look for ways to keep the memory of those who passed alive. Honoring them is an important part of the healing process.

In my 40 years of living, I have attended dozens of funerals and memorial services.

As an Italian Catholic, my family and I would often travel to the graves of my grandparents and lay flowers in remembrance. We would kneel in prayer for their souls. We would laugh and cry.

No Grave to Visit

But in Jim’s case, there was no grave, no permanent structure to visit.He was cremated. His ashes were taken back to his home state of Ohio. For Jim’s friends, or as he thought of us, his “Wilmington family”, we had no place to lay flowers – no place to drink shots of Jameson’s – no place to gather to talk about the good times, the funny moments and the laughs. Jim loved to laugh! :-)

Creating a Place to Gather, to Remember

My close friends know me as a woman of action. I decided one of the ways to honor my friend Jim was to install a memorial bench in Wilmington Park.

In the recent Friends of Wilmington Parks newsletter, Jim’s bench is featured in a section called Why I Love Wilmington Parks.

Jim lived a few blocks away from Brandywine Park, a wooded area nestled in the heart of the city.  The park is a nature lovers paradise in the midst of the urban environment.

View from Jim's bench

Iron worker, Irish philosopher, lover of parks

Jim enjoyed taking breaks in the park like so many in Wilmington do. He would walk through the park, rock climb and mountain bike.  He also loved being an iron worker and in true Irish fashion, he loved to sit and philosophize.

Jim could talk for hours (and any of you who knew Jim are probably nodding your heads in agreement). Keeping all those factors in mind, I decided to ask the park service to install a bench at the opposite side of the iron swinging bridge. I made a donation to the park, chose a memorial plaque and waited for installation.

Sometimes I sit on the bench and talk to Jim.  Sometimes I laugh –  sometimes I cry. Sometimes I curse at him. Even though losing him created an opportunity for me to grow, I still get mad about what happened. I’m human.

Yo Dude, Let’s Hang out

More often than not, I walk by the bench, imagine him sitting in his Jake’s Bar t-shirt, a pair of jeans and waving “hello” to me and winking in the unique Jimmy way he did. I nod my head in recognition and sometimes I even say “Yo Dude” back to him out loud.

I wish I could pick up the phone, dial his old number and talk to him. I miss hanging out. Our conversations now are more one sided than before (for obvious reasons) but I hear his messages of love, support and friendship to me in my heart loud and clear. I know he’s one of my biggest fans. Thanks dude.

Other ways I keep Jim’s memory close and honor him are:

  • This web site. Living life to the fullest and encouraging others to do the same honors him.
  • My Celtic trinity knot tattoo. I was inked in Dublin, Ireland in 2006 at a shop called Zulu Tattoo. The full tattoo story is long and I’ll save it for another day. Jim never made it to Ireland so a friend and I went in his memory. We drank fresh Guinness, toured the town, laughed and cried. I will cherish that trip forever.
  • Music. I have most of Jim’s CD’s. We shared a similar taste in music and when I play certain songs, it reminds me of hanging out and having fun. I especially love blaring AC/DC and Foreigner in my truck. Sometimes I even think Jim plays DJ with the radio. :-) “Rock and Roll ain’t noise pollution. Rock and Roll will never die” – AC/DC
  • Carriage bolts. Say what? Jim was an iron worker as I mentioned. He also did a lot of home construction work. He LOVED to use carriage bolts. I have a 6″ bolt stuck in the garden in my backyard in his honor.
  • Photos. I have a photo where Jim and I are standing side-by-side hugging one another and smiling (click the obituary post to see it). This picture used to sit on top of Jim’s piano. I had it framed and gave it to him back in 2001 or 2002. When he died, I took it back and now it sits in my office with a post it note attached that reads “Jim, Help me Spread the Don’t Give Up! Giggle On! message. thx dude.”

Wrapping it Up

Remember the good times with your loved one. Remember the smiles. Remember the lessons they taught you about life. Remember the belly laughs, the hugs and the playfulness. Keep that in your heart. Take it with you where ever you go.

Please feel free to share ways in which you honored and memorialized your loved one, and, if you knew my friend Jim, please chime in too! Your comments are most welcome here.

For more information about the Friends of Wilmington Parks go HERE.

Update: March 2015 – I recently spoke with Polly Thompson, Jim’s mother. I learned his ashes are buried in a cemetery in Ohio. Although his ashes are there, part of him will always live in Delaware. You’re still missed my friend. Love always, Christa

UPCOMING POST:  Bob Downing: Giggle On Spotlight

Related posts:

Positive response to newspaper article – thank you!

Life Is…

James Karl Thompson “Jim”

Grieve, Give, Giggle

Christa’s article featured on Open to Hope

Walk to beat depression and suicide

Comments

  1. Christa, so awesome…thanks for doing this.
    My dad’s anniversary is approaching on May 5. He suffered terribly with a brain tumor for the last 3 months of his life. Since that time, I’ve viewed cancer as a terrible foe. So, with the irony of May 5th being “Cinco de Mayo”, a celebration of liberty, I enjoy celebrating my dad’s liberation from his pain every May 5th. Usually it’s a long, quiet walk to remember the good things and a nice dinner out (we’re Italian, what can I say…?) and a toast to him and the wonderful life he gave my family.

    Annies last blog post..MY Superhero at The Big Green Earth Store

  2. Christa: we need to remember those who have passed. My Dad and I were close. He has been gone 25 years. I carry him in my heart, Neat place to visit. One of the most touching memorials I was given when my Dad died was from an adversary, but a thoughtful man. He was Jewish and arranged for a tree to be planted in the Canadian Forest in Israel in my Dad’s name. One of the funeral homes close by here has arranged for an area in a local conservation area where you can arrange to plant a tree in a loved one’s memory. “Life from death”.

  3. 12 years ago, we lost my 7 year old nephew to gang violence. Each anniversary of his birth we get together with his parents and surviving brother and celebrate in a way that would be age appropriate had he lived. In addition, his parents have devoted their lives to steering kids away from gangs and combatting gun violence.

    Kens last blog post..Don’t Die Until You ‘Die Hard’

  4. Oh Christa, I so feel you, sister, especially the part about not having someplace to visit. When my beloved father died three years ago (within days of when my dog died and I gave birth), my head was spinning, my breasts were leaking, my eyes were tearing up, and my heart was breaking. But there was no place I could go just to be with him in spirit. I’ve always said I wanted a bench when I die. Someplace beautiful, where people can sit and rest and be in nature and remember.

    Although Dad was cremated and his ashes were buried in Florida (I live in California and Mom lives in Ohio), Mom and I picked out a gorgeous sculpture of a bronze spirit boat. We had the artist engrave the words Dad spoke when I asked him if he was afraid to die: “I’m not scared. I’m joyful.”

    I was an amazingly lucky woman to grow up with such a Dad. I wrote a whole tribute to him on what would have been his birthday this year.

    http://www.owningpink.com/2008/11/27/a-thanksgiving-blessing/

    So I know how you feel about the website allowing someone to live on. Keep up the good work, Christa. You’re touching lives, healing wounds, inspiring community, and gifting us with giggles. I’m going to forward this post to my Mom, who also lost a piece of her heart with Dad died.

    Lissa Rankins last blog post..Sex for Swine Flu Prevention? A Pink Guide to Orgasm

    • @ Annie – I didn’t realize the anniversary of your dad’s passing is right around the corner. I am sorry to hear how much he suffered. I love how you remember his life as a celebration and liberty from his pain. Wonderful. And…to honor him with a good Italian meal makes his Paisan spirit soar. Mangia to your dad at the big buffet in heaven. :-)

      @ Carry – Planting a tree is a wonderful idea and the fact you were able to arrange a tree to be planted in Israel is amazing. “Life From Death” – I love this! Thanks for sharing.

      @ Ken – I cannot imagine the pain involved for your family losing a young boy to such violence. Celebrating his birthday and remembering his life is a beautiful honor. I say “thank you” to his parents for turning their tragedy into hope and life for other children. Preventing needless deaths, whether to gun violence or suicide is a gift of love to humanity. Tell them I said “God Bless You”. Thank you Ken for opening yourself up here and telling your story.

      @ Lissa – I read your beautiful tribute to your father, your “greatest spiritual teacher”. I laughed when I read about his “Donald Duck” voice. Too funny. I almost cried when I read when he went through but his “ I don’t mind what is” attitude is nothing less than inspiring. I didn’t know your dad has MS either. I recently led an MS Walk for my friend Kathy here in Delaware. You are carrying on your father’s legacy of healing with compassion in your medical practice and at Owning Pink. He is smiling down on you proud as ever. Keep that love in your heart. LOVE NEVER DIES.

  5. Christa,

    Thanks for giving us all this opportunity to express ourselves, share and remember. What a beautiful gift.

    My dad’s birthday is coming up in June (Father’s Day weekend). Last year was incredibly difficult to get thru that day. So this year, I decided to gather some of my friends around me who had also lost their dads. I thought it would be a nice way for all of us to be around those who understand and give each other a place to talk, laugh, cry and share a toast.

    I just found out that I now have a gig with my band on the day that we were planning on doing this. It’s kind of fitting as one of the major reasons I am in a band is because my dad was in bands since way before I was even born. So little change of plans I guess. Or maybe it’s a road trip for my friends and a different kind of celebration together! A celebration of music first, of life, of celebrating who we are and why, and then over brunch the next day, we can collectively remember our dads.

    Remembering is so bittersweet, it’s difficult to describe. Thankfully, there is a place like this site for us to be with like-minded people who know what it’s like.

  6. What a beautiful remeberance to Jimmy that you have created with Giggle-On, the park bench, and keeping him alive in your heart. Thanks for sharing this latest edition. NJ

  7. I remember Patti Lawrence, who died yesterday. She was smart and gentle, a compassionate guide to legions of students at Starr King School for the Ministry over the past 20 years.

    • @ Cathy – I think it’s absolutely PERFECT that you have a gig over Father’s Day weekend and your dad’s birthday. Talk about divine intervention! So cool. :-) Celebrating your father’s life in music is a most fitting tribute of his life. I hope the day is filled with lovely memories for you.

      @ Nancy – Thanks for your feedback. I am doing my best here to honor him, our friendship and pay the kindnesses forward.

      @ Neil Chethik – Thanks for stopping by from Open to Hope (a site dedicated to finding hope after loss) and sharing your memory of Patti Lawrence, a “smart, gentle and compassionate” woman. I know you will keep her memory in your heart and carry forward the kindnesses she brought to the world with your work.

  8. Christa, what a lovely tribute- we all have love ones lost to so many things. Bless the families and you for giving us a forum to just honor them.

    I miss my Dad every day just sharing the cryptic word in the paper each day. If I couldn’t solve it he would give me a letter. If I wanted to come home from college he would come get me. So many years ago but the loss it still there. He died of self inflicted addiction but none the less is always in my heart.

  9. I guess my best story is as a hospice/cancer social worker–it was one of those “synchronicity” moments.

    I had had many patients die almost all at once–including an entire group of young inflammatory breast cancer patients! I was burnt out. During one week in this time period, I had a great conversation with a friend from the Czech republic about how we loved when our grandfathers would take us up into the choir loft at church when we were little–it was a treat–funny to share that from two different cultures!

    (Don’t worry–I’ll bring this together now.) Just after having that conversation, a counselor who works with us to “debrief” us of our own grief for patients came for a visit.

    I told him that I just didn’t know what to do with the memories of all of these wonderful people–they seemed to be floating around my head like crazy cherubs. I didn’t want to forget them–but they were my patients/clients, not close friends or family–what to do?

    He said, “Put them up in your choir loft.” !!!!!

    I just blinked at him. He said–let them be the choir of angels who support YOU now.

    Well…that’s where they are. It’s perfect. And whenever I see a choir loft–I have many reasons to smile.

  10. You asked how I remember my mother… With bitterness is the first thought that comes to mind!

    I had a gravestone made with my favorite picture of her holding a tiger imbeded in a ceramic tile that should really last. I also made a long list of her roles, friend, mother, sister, daughter, teacher that is on there. My idea was that I want people a hundred years from now when they go to this little podunk community cemetery to have a little sense of how special she was, and how she affected people around her.

  11. I have a stone next to my pool with my Dads name and date of birth and death on it,
    Verse Reads:

    God saw you getting tired
    A cure was not to be.
    So he put his arms around you
    And whispered, “Come with Me.”

    With tearful eyes we watched you
    And saw you fade away.
    Although we loved you dearly
    We could not make you stay.

    A golden heart stopped beating
    Your tender hands at rest.
    God took you home to prove to us
    He only takes the best.

  12. As far as my dad, how do I keep his memory alive you ask…Well one thing I did is I bought a Willow Tree Angel–it’s the angel of rememberance and also a frame that says Dad on it-the angel is sitting by the frame, and the frame has a scripture on it that says:

    “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement” Phil 1:7 and it also has a little saying on there that says I’m so glad you are my dad.

    I put a picture of me and my dad together in that. That picture was taken a year before he was diagnosed with cancer-his last birthday here on earth.

    I also keep his memory alive by visiting his grave on his bday and memorial day of course.

    One thing I told myself to help me heal from losing my dad is this..okay I hear ya dad, you are telling me to stop crying and start rejoicing cuz you are in a better place and you are not suffering.

    So I pictured my dad up in heaven dancing with Jesus..so that always helped me to get past the moments in which I would be dwelling on his passing.

    Also I pictured my dad telling me not to wish him back to this awful place cuz it does not compare to the place he’s at now. That was just my personal way of healing and dealing with the times of mourning.

    Much blessings and more hugs, Tam :)

  13. Thanks for sharing this Christa! Over this past weekend I had a chance to honor both of my grandparents–my dad’s parents. My grandmother–Lena Serio–passed away in 1996 from brain tumors and I lost my grandfather–Frank J. Serio Sr., aka Buck–three years ago, also to brain tumors. I was very young when my mom-mom died, but it effected me deeply because she was such a large part of my life and the first person I loved that died.

    My pop-pop was truly one of the MOST important people in my life and I still wake up every day missing him. I can honestly say that the hardest thing I ever had to do and the most privileged thing I have done was be with him every day he was sick and let him know how much I love him and what he means to me.

    This past Saturday was the Kelly Heinz Grudner Foundation Brain Tumor Awareness Walk and my family got together as Team Serio and walked in their honor. We work our red shirts (my pop-pop’s favorite color) with their names on them and a pin of their photos. It was all of us from my dad, their oldest son, to my sister’s two-year old daughter. It was emotional, but felt good to be actively showing the world the ones we love and miss.

    Even though we did that on Saturday, I really try to honor them and their memory and the people they were every day of my life. They had a large hand in making me the person I am today and I carry their last name with pride and honor and know that my actions reflect on all Serio’s including them. So I choose to live everyday with integrity for them and for me!

    • @ Anita – Your comment about “self-afflicted” addiction resonated with me deeply. We have a lot of “self-afflicted” conditions in our society. Even though your dad passed a while ago, the fact you still think of him shows the love you shared. Love never dies. Ask your day to help you with the cryptic word – I’m sure he still hears you!

      @ Michele – Choir of angels. I LOVE that! Luv, luv, LOVE it! I can picture it. I admire your work with hospice. It take a special person, in my opinion, to chose working with terminal patients as a profession, then again – I guess we’re all terminal, aren’t we?

      @ Nucleus – A picture of your mom with a tiger? Sounds delightfully exotic – what a great memory! I like how you listed the facets of your mother in all her roles in society. I have no doubt she will be remembered fondly in your heart and the hearts of everyone who knew her for many years to come.

      @ Kelli – I know how much your pool means to you in relationship to your dad. Thank you for sharing the verse on his memorial stone. Your dad is at peace now and like Michele says, he’s part of your choir of angels!

      @ Tammy – I almost cried when I read Willow Tree angel. I used to live in a town called Willow Grove and have a fondness for willow trees. Your outlook on your father’s death is inspirational. I love picturing your dad “dancing with Jesus”. Talk about dancing with the stars! :-)

      @ Christine – Walking to honor the memory of our loved ones is a wonderful tribute. The Kelly Heinz Grudner Foundation has done amazing work in our area to raise awareness. Living with pride of your family name shows respect – I’m a big proponent of respect (it’s the Italian in me, I know you relate). Carrying the life lessons and love lessons your grandparents taught you in your heart on a daily basis is the BEST way to keep the love alive. Save the date Serio: I need your organization genius for the Giggle On E-Racing the Blues Walk on October 25th!

      Thanks for this quote Tammy: “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement” Phil 1:7

  14. My husband Jeremy passed away on Sept 24th. He was 31. He was diagnosed with cancer less than a year prior. We were told it was curable…that he would see our children graduate. I am 27 and have two small children, one 3, the other just turned 1. Our anniversary and Jeremy’s birthday just passed. I am celebrating my survival through this month of May. I feel like I am just beginning to wake up from a long sleep, a dreadful process of sorrow and emptiness. Through my grief, I discovered pranic healing. It has strengthened my faith and my Christianity. It has increased my awareness and heightened my sensitivity to signs from my husband, the ability to rise above this situation and the temptation to let this also kill off a part of me, the me/ the us I once knew. It has led me back to a place I once knew and helped me to believe that life can still carry on…that I can still be happy, and that I can help others rediscover their happiness too. It has improved my overall character. When Jeremy died, I felt I lost everything. In one swoop, my perfect world crumbled. I feel as though now I am beginning to be reborn. My life has taken on greater meaning. I want to share what I have learned on this journey with others- through this “crash,” this ending, I feel a new world beginning- I am beginning to realize what my husband always tried to instill in me…that life should be lived to its fullest, to be kind no matter what, to create peace at any price, that winning an argument doesn’t mean you have won- it probably means the opposite. In this world, we are here to help, serve, and work in harmony with one another. Jeremy and I both worked with children with special needs. In his memory, we have created All Stars Academy, a corporation whose mission is to provide opportunities for children with abilities and disabilities to play and learn together through social, recreational, and educational activities. “We believe that together we can all be stars.” We will “go after it” for you, kid!

    • @ Kim – I am sorry to hear about your husband passing away so young. Your comment touched me deeply and I’m so glad you found your way over to Giggle On! I admire your attitude about life and especially your desire to help others rediscover their happiness. What a gift you bring to this world!

      I don’t know much about pranic healing. I plan to look it up. I discovered new things after my friend died. I gained insight and knowledge that helped me keep going. I am pleased you are finding your way through the murky waters of grief.

      We ARE here to serve and congratulations for you and Jeremy for dedicating yourselves to the All Stars Academy. The fact you are carrying on in his name says a lot about him, and more about you.

      I applaud your “Don’t Give Up! Giggle On!” spirit and I have something special for you….

      *clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap *

  15. I posted earlier but wanted to add on. I recently went to Hawaii with my husband where we visited Pearl Harbor. My father who passed away about two years ago was extremely interested in WWII, partly because his older brother served as a medic overseas during the war. He also was fascinated with the WWII aircrafts. He must have built hundreds, maybe thousands of model planes focusing on WWII planes that he would decorate our den with over the course of his life. I used to sit and watch him build them when I was a little kid.

    So we stopped at the Pacific Aviation Museum while we were. We found out that they restore the original WWII planes and display them along with their stories, so that young people today can learn about these beautiful planes and why the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the war happened, keeping the story alive. I saw that you can make a certain level of donation to help complete the next three stages of the museum and then have your name placed on the entry way saying that you are a supporter. So I was inspired to donate in the name of my dad, so that his name can live on near all of these beautiful planes that he so loved, and in honor of his brother who served. That thought made me really happy. :0)

  16. Thank you, dear Christa for sharing this website, and these ways of remembering those whom we have lost. It is particularly pertinent, because I have fought with ways of trying to remember a dear friend who I lost two years ago. Some of these methods may help, I feel.

    • @ Shady – you are most welcome. I am honored you stopped by and left your comment on this post. Remember your friend in any way you can – there is no right, no wrong. Do what you feel in your heart.

  17. Christa,

    I am so proud of you for this site. I am on it reading the stories and I’m crying. Jimi would’ve been soooooo proud of you. I’m happy you are apart of my life. I really am.

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