Memorials are generally somber affairs, especially when the “departed” are close family or friends. But the one I went to yesterday was almost a party.
It helped that I did not know Jennifer, the young (48 years old) woman who had died. I was there with my cousin, who had driven up from Virginia, and she was a close friend of the woman’s mother, having met the daughter only once. But I know from my experience that it feels good to have a lot of people around as you commemorate or celebrate a life.
The memorial took place in the Palm House at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, a light-filled space that felt very appropriate for the woman I heard described by her wife, sisters, college friends, and more recent friends. Under each of our chairs was a piece of colored paper and a Sharpie. At one point people were asked to write the word or phrase that best described their memory of Jennifer—and then to crumple up the paper and toss it to the person who was at the microphone, who then read each one. Not what you expect to do at a memorial.
When the reminiscences were over, we had delicious catered food—Mexican at one stand, Moroccan at the other—outside, serenaded by a small band. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating well; it was chilly, and while some people sat at the outdoor tables, others retreated back to the Palm House.
A friend of mine who died a few years ago from kidney cancer had a party while she was still able to appreciate it and so she could be present when her friends celebrated her. Jennifer, who apparently loved parties, turned down that suggestion. But she wanted her family and friends to have that party, even if she wasn’t there. And it felt good to continue life for the rest of us.
And just to illustrate life and death going on all around us all the time, as my cousin and I were leaving the botanical garden, a heron swooped in, grabbed a goldfish from the lotus pond, and flew off with its dinner.
It’s Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers. Check out this encouraging and enthusiastic writing community and their slices of life every Tuesday. And add one of your own.