Saturday, May 26, 2012


Give sorrow words;
the grief that does not speak
Whispers the o’er-fraught heart
and bids it break.
William Shakespeare

The first time I noticed was probably the first year it was done, although I can't be sure about that. We had already walked most of the route when we stopped at a fenced observation point to view a lovely waterfall surging rapidly through a narrow, sheer-walled chasm. We stood there for some time, as we always do, soaking in the breath-taking beauty. Turning to head back up the few rock steps to the trail, something caught my eye. There, at the base of a rocky outcrop at the very back of this narrow viewing spot, were some wilted flowers and several votive candles. These had been placed there recently; we wondered and talked about it briefly on our way back to the car.

On Vancouver Island, British Columbia, this short hike, around the Little Qualicum River and Falls is one of our favorites. Because we are there off-season, there are very few others on the trail and we are able to experience the peace and quiet of the place mostly by ourselves. The following year, in that very same spot, we again found a candle and some dead flowers. Again, I wondered about this and thought it must be a small memorial of some sort.

Another year, the memorial had shifted and changed. Instead of candles and flowers in an out-of-the-way place, a lovely pot full of spring flowers had been set on a large, moss-covered rock - just outside the fence - on the very edge of the gorge. This time it could not be missed as the brilliant purple crocus, primrose, hyacinth, and bright yellow daffodils stood out against the dark forest background. The pot sported a bright yellow wrap and with tulip buds not yet open, was bound to last for some time yet. The sight of it touched my heart and caused me, once more, to think of loss and what a deceased person means to those left behind.

Several more years passed and we either did not take that hike, or I forgot to look, and the memory of that spot faded. This year, with the death of my sister still fresh on my mind, I did look. At first I saw no sign, but then, on the same moss-covered rock where the pot had been were some carnation stems with blooms long dead and faded. More lay strewn on the ground below. I have no idea what the story behind this particular yearly ritual is, but it is obvious that someone was much cared for, is still missed and remembered.

Memorial days, when the graves of heroes were decorated with flowers and garlands, are ancient customs originating in Greece 2,500 years ago. During our Civil War, both the United States and the Confederate States of America had Memorial days. By the late 1800s, many communities celebrated this day and, after World War I, observances began to honor those who had died in all of America's wars. Originally known as Decoration Day, it became an official federal holiday in 1971 and now falls on the last Monday of May. Officially, this day honors men and women who died while serving in the American military. Many Americans still observe the day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, and participating in parades.

Memorials, however, as that special little spot in the forest shows, go beyond those in the military. Many of us have lost dear friends and/or family members this year. Death, as we know, is a part of living. That knowledge, and the ache inside, does not make it any easier for those of us left behind. But we also know that life does go on; hope springs eternal. REMEMBER - for it is cleansing and healing to do so.

 What we have once enjoyed we can never lose.
All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.
~ Helen Keller

...took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 1 Corinthians 11:23-25


  1. I cannot believe it has taken me this long to discover your blog! It was because of your touching comment on my blog that I came to visit for the first time. And I will again... until I have read all your posts.

    This particular post is very poignant. I, too, lost a sister, back in 2009. I will share a link to a song that I found moving during my most intense grieving process. It's called "A Soft Good-Bye" and is sung by Celtic singer, Lisa Kelly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjH696h4rGQ

    For the lyrics: http://www.celticlyricscorner.net/kelly/soft.htm

    Thank you very much for writing such a beautiful blog. And you happen to live in one of my favorite places on earth. So glad I found you!

  2. I miss my mother--your sister--so much. And yet this first year is filled with so many challenges that honor her: decisions about work, kids, and my dad. Amidst this, I keep encountering these beautiful, breathtaking bearded irises. And your blog has stirred in me the need to share with you the memorial thoughts I've had around this.

    The bearded iris was my mother's specialty in Minnesota, but I have not seen them in abundance since moving to Oregon. First, I saw one bravely poking out around a fence post at The Kennedy School on my way in to say good-bye to a friend moving to California. Then, I saw a gathering of them in front of someone's home, settled in a lazy sidewalk garden in shades of purple, lavendar and yellow. So regal. So proud but so humble at the same time. Just like my mother. Never drawing attention to self but always a stand out in a crowd. Finally, last weekend I saw them sprinkled along a country road I cycled out in Pendleton, OR on the way up to a place called Bar M Ranch. I sped past them, tears in my eyes thinking "Mom, these are in memory of you. Every time I see them I know you are looking down on me and still setting examples about life even from the side of death because of all the memories you've filled my life with. Thank you mommy. Thank you." Irises will always be a memorial to my mom. Always. ~ Linda ~

  3. memories...sometimes i can't help but get overwhelmed by all the loss...all the deaths of those close to me...parents and my only sister & brother...and then others who have touched my life...
    the ache never really seems to go away...

    you have such a nice way of expressing yourself...your words...and pictures...always make me feel...happier...

    thanks ladybug! :)