Remembrance and remembering

August 28, 2013 § 82 Comments

In the last couple of weeks I’ve attended two funerals: one was of someone I knew very well; one not so well, and at both I’ve wondered whether it would be particularly ghoulish to write eulogies for my parents now, while they are still very much alive.

People are often outraged to hear that newspapers already have obituaries written in the event of certain prominent people dying – Nelson Mandela comes to mind. Or that television stations have news teams and ready-made tribute documentaries that just need updating, for example. But of course, it’s simple pragmatism – they can’t afford to be scrambling for words or footage when he dies.

And I feel the same way about my parents. I don’t want to be penning a tribute to people I love when I’m blinded by grief and overwhelmed by the long list of practicalities that the death of a loved one inevitably brings.

I want to recall the time my dad lost his keys on a huge sand dune, and I, aged nine or ten, proudly found them after an extensive search. I want to remember the time we were in Cape Town in a downpour and he scooped four-year-old me up in his khaki raincoat that smelled just like him, and scarpered for the car while I giggled and bounced in his arms.

I want to write down now how much I loved listening to the Goon Show with him in the kitchen, or jogging with him in the early mornings, both of us built for comfort, not speed, neither of us containing even an ounce of athleticism in our DNA.

I want to be sure to tell people how lucky we were to have an awesome stepmother who was brave enough to marry not just my dad, but three children aged 17, 14, and 10 who were still reeling from the death of their beloved mother.

How, before she and my dad were married, we loved going to her house for Sunday lunch where she served such delights as upside-down pineapple cake, or a triangular cheesecake – wonders we had never beheld before.

And how we noticed our dad changing back from a grey-faced, shrunken version of himself to the punning, jovial joker he’d been before. How the light returned to his eyes; the smile to his face.

Every semester when I set off for varsity, she baked me biscuits and helped me pack; today she is a wonderful grandmother to my own children. And she has been the best thing that happened not only to our family, but especially to my dad, who really wasn’t designed to be alone. She has loved my dad – and all of us – for two and a half decades already, and we have loved her for it, and for herself.

I don’t want to do all of that when I’m sad. I also don’t want to forget to tell both of them now, while I still have them, how much I love and appreciate them. Because if I’ve learnt one thing in my 44 years so far, it’s that life is short and death is often unexpected.

And if you don’t tell people that you love them today, you may not have the opportunity to do so tomorrow.

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§ 82 Responses to Remembrance and remembering

  • cath says:

    I loved this. Thank you. Wishing you comfort at this time of grief X

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  • You have it right. Better by far to refresh, reinforce, renew these thoughts and feelings, than to sit recriminating afterwards. Also a good example to those who follow your writing, who may not have thought about the matter. Enjoy your day.

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  • Aaaw that’s lovely – I am going to do this on my blog for my parents too, hope you don’t mind me stealing the idea.

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  • nandi lugongolo says:

    What yu saying,I find it powerful my sister.I like I like.& at the time of death they doneven hear you.I believe telling people how yu appreciate them while they are stil alive is a good thing.reason being:as human beings,we usually doubt ourselves if we have a positive impact towards those close to us.we always feel we not doing enough.

    Last year ma cousin was graduating,I was so touched when her mom*my aunt* said positive things about her daughter while her daughter is listening.I told her that she is blessed to hear her mom saying those things about her,coz it actually encourages 1 to continue doing good & work on their weaknesses.

    So applaude yu sisi for telling them how much yu appreciate them while they can still hear you.

    Powerful piece of writing my sister.

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  • Beautiful. Write the obits and share it with them. That is such a compliment. There was a genuine case of an African man, in SA, who staged his death about 15 years ago. He lay in the open casket, listening to the tributes. At the end, he sat up, predictably, terrifying the mourners, and said, “Now I can really die in peace one day, because I know what you will say about me.”

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  • Kerry says:

    So beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

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  • Just beautiful. Last year my cousins and I sent our mother’s on a little holiday together. Each child wrote a letter to their mother, saying all the things that we just never get to say in the everyday. It was so valuable just being able to articulate all the things I appreciate about my mother.

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  • Cikizwa Jali says:

    Beautiful piece of writing. Now I understand why TV stations have orboituaries on stand by.

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  • charliesbird says:

    I like this, I really do.
    Whenever I think of my parents in terms of their death (hopefully far in the future), I am always reduced to tears. I wish I had your eloquence; but perhaps my heart’s cry is enough.

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  • sfalconer8 says:

    That was beautiful. Thank you.

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  • Beautiful. And congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

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  • treiter89 says:

    Very touching. I remember when my grandmother died who I love dearly. I hadn’t spoken to her in a while but for Christmas 2011, I sent her a loving Christmas card. I told her that I love her very much and that I’m sorry that we hadn’t spoken much. A few weeks later I visited her in the hospital and she told me that my card was the best Christmas gift she got. I was so happy because I saw how happy she was. A few months later, my sweet grandmother passed away. I’ll forever be happy that I sent that Christmas card.

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  • My husband and I (both, we pray, still in great health!) have discussed what we would say at one another’s funerals. It’s odd, perhaps, but a lovely way to remind one another what we most value and appreciate in each other while we are here to enjoy it.

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  • Lakia Gordon says:

    I think it awesome, the part when you said your stepmother married EVERYONE! Not very many people can say that. Loved this post.

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  • Kimberly says:

    Sorry for your loss. So lovely an idea, and not morbid at all in my humble opinion. As I too recently lost a loved one, I thought this post may be of some comfort to you. Many Blessings! http://wp.me/p1X7Oe-Bw

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  • You are a beautiful soul. I don’t see anything wrong with writing about the beautiful joys you have shared with them. At the time of their passing’s you will gift others with your special words, bringing comfort and sweet memories to them.
    This calendar year I have loved deeply several out of the twelve people i know who have left this world. My greatest joy is how I would out of ‘nowhere’ say, “I love you, Aunt Virginia.” I am so thankful I said it to her each time we spoke. She died suddenly in a horrific accident. After her death I sat down to write something to myself, words upon a keyboard that will live beyond my lifetime. It is my gift to her and to her family, and to myself.

    Write it, Sweetie, but more importantly, speak of it often, do so just out of the blue, whenever you want. Just do it!

    Bless you.

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  • Joy says:

    This is a very touching piece… very nicely written… Thanks πŸ™‚

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  • revjoe01 says:

    Beautifully written. God bless you all.

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  • So true! Absolutely beautiful post.

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  • The Green Butterfly says:

    I think you make a fabulous point here. If we can write about our parents or our loved ones when we are in a good state of mind, the things that we write will probably come out a lot better than if we were in a grieving state and the things that we say would most likely be a lot more positive and funny.

    Thanks for sharing! Have a Beautiful day!

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  • susielindau says:

    This is such a great idea and a wonderful tribute.

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  • Shellia Reed says:

    I’m glad that your parents are able to read such heartfelt tributes to them. You’ve given them the bouquet that many only receive after it’s too late for them to enjoy.

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  • liblalamb says:

    this post has changed my life! I am getting married in a few weeks, and this ceremony is showing up in a way that is unique and unexpected. I enjoyed writing my vows, and now I will give thought to my parents.

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  • shawnmohr7 says:

    I think you’re wise to follow the impulse to write wherever it takes you, especially when those are tough places to go. But it sounds like you’ve really hit on a good idea. When the day comes, you’ll have your own support in hand; a collection of the things you want to recall when pain and loss might otherwise dull your recollections. I think you’ll be glad for having done it. It’s strange what settings of grief trigger in our minds, but I think you’ve got yourself a worthy piece of wisdom, and that’s a tribute of immeasurable worth to those whose loss you’ve felt recently. Macabre though it may feel, I think it’s a fantastic idea!

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  • So true – love people while you have them – once they go, the love exists but is often accompanied by the heavy ache.
    “death is often unexpected.” – is one of the bitter truth that everyone has to swallow.
    Lovely of you (and its rare, I might dare to say), to showcase this love, affection and gratitude to your parents.
    Oh btw, congratulations on being freshly pressed.

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  • ayush1313 says:

    Great I find a very few people who appreciate their stepmother, but great dude you understand her feelings.

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  • Kami Tilby says:

    You said it all so easily, but with a poetic love woven inside every phrase and story. Wonderful tribute for two obviously stellar people.

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  • The Rider says:

    Very good post! From a South African pastor leading another funeral service in 2 hours time…

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  • I do not wish to put a downer on what you wrote. As to eulogies – sometimes they can’t be written before death strikes. One of the most moving funerals I ever attended was that of a five year old. His parents most certainly not prepared. There is a rawness in delivery when being caught unawares.

    What surprises me (and I do not mean to hurt you) that you mention your father many a time, you mention (lovingly) your stepmother. But what memory of your mother?

    U

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    • I agree – I couldn’t even begin to write a eulogy for one of my children now. And I wrote about my mother earlier this year. The post is here if you’d like to read it. March | 2013 | mandycollinswriter
      https://mandycollinswriter.wordpress.com/2013/03/

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      • Thank you for the link. If anyone understands you it’s me. I was very lucky in that I had ‘two’ mothers. My mother and HER mother who brought me up the first few years. She died when I was eight. My safety net, the woman I loved most in all my life, ripped like a carpet from underneath my feet (this is no reflection on my parents, not at all).

        I so relate to that age thing you mention. When my son (now nearly 22) was eight I was terrified I’d drop dead just like my grandmother did. What would become of him? Who’d look after him? Take the same care? Obviously one can’t let on about such irrational fears. But a fear it was. And so on and so on. Milestones over the years.

        Let’s live to a ripe old age, Mandy, preferably without going senile, to spare our children.

        Affectionately,
        U

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      • Yes, let’s. πŸ™‚

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  • bliss steps says:

    ~ You nailed it! I really lurve your last line as I always believe in that. I still cannot bring myself to write a eulogy now but I always make it a point to tell them I love them no matter how cheesy. I plan to do this always as I am far from my loved ones. Here goes: http://thelurkerslist.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/free-association-family-death-and-blessings/. I hope that post will make you smile. Congrats on being FP and thank you for sharing your thoughts! Many readers are enlightened by your kind reminder. Cheers! πŸ™‚ – Bliss, The Lurker’s List

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  • Thank you for this Mandy… I lost my dad and I still owe him memories.
    I am better prepared now. Death comes to us all.

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  • elenaahadiz says:

    So beautifully written!

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  • Thank you so much, everyone, for your kind words. I’m overwhelmed!

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  • eisees says:

    This re-lives beautiful thoughts about the parents I so en-dear but already gone.
    Thank you πŸ™‚

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  • Christina says:

    I couldn’t have read this at a better time. So beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

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  • We made DVD life videos of both my parents showed my dad his prior to passing and my mother has watched her DVD too. They loved it! Plus you are so grief stricken one less thing to do!

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  • Sonny Grzona says:

    Awesome. I need to call my mother right now…

    God bless you.

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  • […] was already thinking about telling it when I read Remembrance and remembering, one woman’s loving tribute to her father and stepmother. Β The following is not a story […]

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  • pipmarks says:

    Great post. I love the story of Alfred Nobel who read his obituary when his brother died and the paper mistakenly thought it was him. He started up the Nobel Prizes because he didn’t want to be only remembered for inventing dynamite and making a fortune from selling explosives.

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  • So true. We all would do well to let those who are still here know exactly the beautiful memories they’ve provided us for after they’ve gone.

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  • You bring up a great point. When in grief, it can be hard to think of a single sentence to write, much less create a piece that will accurately capture the deceased person’s life and what that life represented.
    –JW

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  • Maria M says:

    Great post. Having lost mum three months ago, my head is still nowhere and everywhere thinking of all I should have, all I could have done. You made a lot of interesting points, and it was a great thank you to your parents for all they have done for you.

    Like

  • Kasturi says:

    This post is profound in its meaning. My mother and I have had a similar conversation in fact, one I stubbornly refused to partake in at first, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. It started with her recalling her own experience of losing her dad and how she was plagued with guilt about all the times she had been harsh or ungrateful to him. All this amidst the consuming grief she already felt over his loss. Her message was simple- don’t berate yourself with such thoughts when I’m gone. Recall the happy memories in stead.
    Much like the ones you’ve shared about your dad..
    Thank you for a beautiful post.
    -Kasturi

    Like

  • Delana says:

    Awhile back the daily prompt gave me pause to think about what I would want an obituary to say about me. Thank you for giving me a reason now to think ahead about what I would say about loved ones in my life!
    http://delanasworld.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/not-in-todays-obits/

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  • Trisha says:

    Thanks for sharing these memories, Mandy. The idea of writing eulogies for the living is compelling and thought-provoking, and you eloquently exemplify what their purpose really is. This was beautifully written.

    Like

  • elalmahabla says:

    It really touched me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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  • Mandy, this touched my heart. I lost my mother two years ago. The happy times and memories are like soft-fuzzy blankets I wrap myself tightly in. Thank you for making me smile,
    Christy

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  • Beautifully written, you certainly do not make the idea sound morbid or ghoulish at all.

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  • Amazing. Makes you realize of the little things we take for granted everyday. I lost my grandfathers last year, about seven months apart, and I have given my eulogies for both funerals. It really is hard to put up a meaningful and realistic eulogy when you’re too broken to even mutter a word.

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  • As someone who has presided at over 100 funerals, Thanks for sharing.

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  • Sounds as if you are well on your way to writing them…Do as you like You have some awesome memories!!.

    My parents are both gone…4 and 5 years ago. I gave the eulogy at my father’s funeral and also spoke at my mother’s funeral. Where I ramped up my courage, I’ll never know …but I was able to give both a tribute I believed they deserved.

    After losing my 19 y/o niece, my 40 y/o brother-in-law, my 30 y/o best friend…and my alert/oriented/spry mother who fell down her stairs and didn’t live to see the sunset… my credo in life is to tell the significant people in your life just how much they mean to you for you may never get another chance.

    Thanks for sharing these terrific memories!!

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  • You dear lady, generous great write and F. P. too. Pages, books could /should be written about loved ones.

    Our parents were both doing the best they could with limited resources– both “teachers” in many ways
    One result, –this is what it looked like joining the funeral procession late for my brother. The community grief was shown in a most unusual way. The small country church would hold less than 200 but as we traveled through the close by town – some had stopped and pulled over to be respectful. The shocked look of “awesome” was on their faces as they had never seen a line of cars 5 miles long. as if asking- “Who was this person?”

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  • Thank you for helping me begin to get some of my own warm recollections into writing. I re-pressed this post.

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  • Elle Knowles says:

    Very, very inspiring, but came too late for me to put into action. I try to write about my parents on my blog on Mothers Day and Fathers Day. It keeps their memories alive for me and others who knew them.

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  • […] Remembrance and remembering. […]

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  • Margaret Wood says:

    Thank you Mandy – it’s two years since the sudden and unexpected death of my husband of almost 55 years. Not a day passes without I wish I had said “I love you” the last time I spoke with him.

    Like

    • I’m so sorry, Margaret. That must be very hard. I know how you feel; I still regret bouncing out of the car one afternoon and not saying a proper goodbye to my mom. When I returned home, she had died. Don’t beat yourself up – you will drive yourself crazy. I’m sure he knew how much you loved him.

      Like

  • atempleton says:

    Beautifully written.

    Like

  • Loved this. I wrote a eulogy for my husband several weeks before his death last year. It was cathartic.I tried to make it funny and irreverent, just like he was. I had a close friend read it at the Memorial Gathering. My husband was relatively young – 57 – so having a heavy, morose funeral didn’t seem right somehow, not him at all. So we had a celebration and laughed and remembered great times we had all had.
    We were married for almost 36 years, all our adult lives. he had dementia so was not able to appreciate our expressions of love for many months before he died. We told him we loved him but for the last six months he did not understand – that was very hard as you can imagine.
    My words were read at two other Memorials – we have friends and family in many places. We also read letters and other words from people who could not get to a celebration for him.
    It was good to express one’s feelings, even if I couldn’t say them out loud at the time. I am so glad I was able to take the time to reflect and say what I wanted to on his behalf.
    Deborah Thelwell

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  • Caty says:

    I’m awful glad to hear this from someone else. I write everyone’s eulogy, all the time, in my head. I’m constantly thinking of what I would say at blank’s funeral. As you said, I think it’s much better to do it with a clear head and even to get their opinion – so that you don’t say something they wouldn’t approve of in their absence.

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  • Mandy, I agree with you–better to think through a parent’s obituary ahead of time. I didn’t do that, and when my mom passed away in 2004 and my dad in 2006, it was hard to condense their lives into one neat column. I love your stories–those are the memories that stick! My family was a family of 8 and we took some long, crazy road trips, all stuffed into a station wagon without A/C in the middle of August. I wish I had thought to add silly memories.

    Here’s an obituary I ran across recently. I have a pretty good idea you will love reading about this woman’s life! What thoughtful kids to write her obituary with such a fun twist! http://www.feerickfuneralhome.com/notices.php?id=1036

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