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  • Writer's pictureM. Linda Graham


June 3, 2024

Retirement Day #1800

“World Death Rate Holding Steady at 100%” – Headline from The Onion, Jan. 22, 1997

None Of Us Gets Out of Here Alive. That truth feels particularly acute for me today. Over the past seven weeks, six colleagues and friends have passed away, as well as too many beloved dogs, cats and horses. Despite feelings of loss, I have been grateful for the various opportunities to say good-bye. For some, traditional rituals provided a codified structure for mourning, from high masses with regalia, hymns, classical requiems and poetic eulogies to traditional open casket funerals informed by Reformed Church formalities. Others opted for quietly respectful announcements with requests for donations to be given to specific charities or organizations. And for others, Celebrations of Life involved champagne flowing, and stories shared around fires at gracious garden parties. The “celebration, memorial and honor” of each event spoke eloquently and uniquely to the respective individuals. I could practically feel their spirit presence – their surprised delight, like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, seemed palpable.

How We Say Goodbye Matters. According to The Google: Goodbyes provide closure, enabling us to move forward with a sense of resolution. When we take the time to say goodbye, we acknowledge the past and embrace the future. This sense of closure can help us find peace in moments of transition and change.” “Until we meet again” emphasizes the hope of seeing the other person in the future. Expressing gratitude for time spent together and offering blessings is part of the spiritual package.

The Nature of Goodbye Matters. Faith traditions understand this, providing meaningful rituals that offer space and time for the bereaved AND for the dearly departed not only to say “goodbye,” but also “thank you, I love you, I forgive you, I forgive myself.” Our culture focuses on humans, but space, time and guidance for those who lose a beloved pet likewise demands attention and respect.

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust. Over the last 30years, funerals, memorials and celebrations have expanded to become creatively and expressively personal for the departed as well as bio-environmentally aware. Cremated remains can be “aquamated*” or launched into space [“stardust to stardust”], buried in biodegradable urns wherein the ashes nurture a growing tree, incorporated in the structure of coral reefs or made into “memorial diamonds” for jewelry. There are scattering ceremonies, trenching ceremonies, water ceremonies, casting ceremonies, and aerial ceremonies. Let’s not forget about the New Orleans style [or any other style!] funeral marches, wakes – where both candles and mourners get lit, and the incredible range of deathwatch traditions. Butterflies or fireworks can be released, party favors or volunteer assignments given, memorial gardens erected, sighs and cries effected, goodbyes perfected.

So Fill to Me the Parting Glass** I honestly don’t know if it matters for them [although I like to think it does], but a send-off that’s synchronized with the spirit of the departed goes beyond “goodbye.” Loss tears a hole in the heart. When a community shares their gratitude and grief, gently singing the departed onward and upward, healing takes a forward step.

Yes- a “GoodGoodBye” Matters - I’ve made my plans.

*Aquamation: A gentle process that uses water instead of fire to return a body to mother nature – it is considered a sustainable, flame-free alternative to cremation []

** From “The Parting Glass” – traditional folk song

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