SINCE THE ARRIVAL of the newest member of our family, a Chihuahua mix named Cooper, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the park a few blocks south of our home. Cooper spends a lot of time sniffing the trees. So I have time to notice the many markers placed near the trees. One marker that remembers a woman who died at the age of 38, reads: “You are forever young and loving in our hearts.” Another, celebrating a long life, states: “A living tribute to (name), our giving tree.” At the base of yet another tree, a plaque reads: “In loving memory of (name). Her Irish eyes were always smiling.”
I knew none of the people remembered at the trees of Taylor Park, but every time our dog and I pause at a tree with a marker, I give thanks for the life remembered there.
Those tree markers got me thinking about other kinds of life markers that remind us of loved ones whose baptismal journeys have been made complete. These reminders needn’t be made of brass to help us remember our loved ones. I have a glass juicer that my mother used. Every time I use that juicer, which could easily have come from a dime store, I think of my mother. I also have a glass cake stand that belonged to my mother’s maternal grandmother.
Whenever my mom used that cake stand, usually for birthday cakes, she would remember her grandmother. Now when I use it, I speak of my great-grandmother, someone I never even met.
Markers don’t have to be objects, of course. When I tell one of my father’s many stories, I’m remembering him. I like telling his stories to my great-nieces and nephews, as well as my grandchildren—most of whom never met my father. And there are times in worship, as we sing a particular hymn when I can almost hear my father’s soaring tenor voice harmonizing with me as I sing the alto line.
Cake stands, juicers, stories, and songs. These are some of the ways we remember our loved ones. Stained glass windows in our churches, dedicated to someone’s memory, do the same. Even buildings and highways are named after people, as a way of keeping their memory alive. With these things we say that the lives of our loved ones mattered, that they are not forgotten, that they made a difference in our becoming who we are.
Here’s an idea to use as you gather this month or at a special summer gathering. Invite each participant to bring something that reminds them of a loved one who has died. Then invite each to tell a brief story about the item and their loved one. Let all these stories be part of your prayers, watering the trees of your community’s memories. As a group, end each story by saying, “We thank God for the life of (insert name).”
This blog first ran as a Grace Notes column, “Cake stands, juicers, stories, and songs,” by Linda Post Bushkofsky in the May 2019 issue of Gather magazine.