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Memorials: Many Ways, Many Choices

By Adrienne Crowther

When we lose a loved one, we often want to continue the legacy. There's something very healing about creating special moments, rituals, and even objects that are constant reminders of the life and story of our beloved friends, relatives, spouses, and even animals in our lives.

This article offers some suggestions from real life experiences. These ideas have provided opportunities for healing for everyone involved in the processes.

Memorial Services can be very personal, beautiful, and commemorative with some careful reflection and planning. Many people now refer to these services as life celebrations for good reason. When my husband passed away, my daughters and I devoted a week to this process. After careful deliberation, we agreed that the perfect venue was our own backyard, because he loved his home and spent a lot of time cultivating a garden, which was dedicated to his honor during the service. We poured over hundreds of photos that covered the span of his entire life. We selected the ones that delineated passages of his life, commemorating each chapter. They were compiled into a slideshow that was played at the service. We then composed a very long list of the music that he enjoyed. Music was an important aspect of life for him, so we knew that it had to play an important role in his memorial service. We even asked a friend to sing one of his favorite songs, which was incredibly moving. Friends and family got up to speak, telling stories, both poignant and funny.

This memorial service was beautiful. We feel confident that it chronicled his life and story quite well, and perhaps even impacted lives of some of the people in attendance.

He was cremated, so that provided some more opportunities to pay tribute to him. We designed an urn, which is handmade by one of my daughters from a piece of mahogany that he had saved. We also carry a small bit of ashes whenever we travel, so that, symbolically, we leave a little of his essence wherever we go.

We've also had jewelry made that contains some of his hair. This is a tradition that dates back to Victorian times, and is experiencing a resurgence in memorial trends today. The beauty in it is that one can have a lovely piece of jewelry created in his honor. His memory is held close to the heart always.

At the memorial service, we had a beautiful hand-bound book with one of his favorites quotes, his full name, and dates on the cover. Both the cover and the hand-marbled paper inside the book were shades of blue, his favorite color.

We made many copies of the CD that held his favorite songs. We gave a copy to some of our closest friends and family members. Music is such a wonderful way to recall the memory of a person, place, or time, and everyone has greatly appreciated this gift.

During the memorial service, at the dedication of the garden, we vowed to continue to cultivate the garden in his honor, year after year. We had a small gathering at the garden to commemorate the first anniversary of his passing. We constructed two plywood panels and asked everyone to paint a design or message on the panels. These panels decorate the garden still, and have helped to make this garden a sacred space.

These are just a few ideas for memorials. Memorials come from memories, so all that is required to create meaningful memorials is some reflection about the person who has passed, a bit of imagination, and some organization. The healing effects of these efforts are profound.

Adrienne Crowther is the owner of Shine On Brightly, at, the online gallery for memorial art.


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