Commemorating Loss: The Gifts of Spring
It has been an absolutely beautiful weekend here in Birmingham, and so today I got out in the yard to begin pulling the myriad of weeds that have sprung up with all of the rain of late. This is a post-winter ritual, a chance to clean out the gardens, see what survived, and make room for new flowers. It’s also a time of remembrance and reflection.
Beginning with the death of my oldest brother, I began to look for meaningful ways to commemorate the loss of a loved one or pet. My brother’s death from a heart attack happened days before my annual faculty recital. I was at a loss, in shock from losing my sweet brother so suddenly, and wondering if I could make it through a full recital without breaking down. I asked myself what my brother would want me to do, thought of the example of work ethic he had always set. I chose to play the recital and dedicated it to him, my gift of music being an offering of peace to his passing. Somehow I made it through until the last note, until the applause rang out, before my grief overwhelmed me.
I chose to also commemorate my brother’s passing through fitness, acknowledging his health issues, and learning from them. I ran a 10K race, thinking of him with every step until I crossed the finish line. Pounding the pavement, pushing myself physically, seemed to take away some of the sting of loss.
When I lost Guinness, a dog that had shared my life for sixteen years, I felt I owed it to his memory and all we had been through together to do something special. I ran a 10K in his memory, but also did something less ephemeral. I planted a garden where his ashes were buried, my tears salting the earth. Today, as I have every Spring since 2004, I cleaned out Guinness’ garden, lovingly clearing off his marker, preparing to add new flowers that will bring color and light to our yard. They also will make me smile as I see the beautiful resting place for my old friend outside our kitchen window.
I created a garden in the back of our property in memory of two other special pets as well, and with the coming of Spring it is a riot of color and beauty. In memory of the passing of Dan’s mother, I planted a very special iris, a flower that has deep significance to me in its brief, but glorious, blooming.
I don’t feel sad when I see these tributes, instead, I feel gratitude for the time I had with my loved ones, remembering the great gift of our spirits crossing paths. It is always better to look for the joy than dwell in the sadness. Sadness and loss will always be a part of our lives, but it does not have to define us. Spring yet again brings so many gifts of beauty in her arrival, including the gift of cherished memories.