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Dad was smart. Mom said she wanted to be cremated and scattered on a dune in coastal North Carolina. We scattered most of her there and of course the sand dune is now part of the Atlantic Ocean. Dad buried a bit of the cremains in Alabama where Mom’s family is from and put a very touching, and detailed (Dad’s an engineer) memorial marker in place.
On Christmas Eve day, we traveled over to Alabama to visit Mom’s family both living and dead. My main mission for the trip was to engage my 8 year old niece in getting to know Mom, the grandmother she never knew, and Meme and Pop, my grandparents. How do you make a visit to the cemetary fun for an 8 year old?
I took some cues from my super smart friends at Kate’s Club. I thought about our holiday traditions – what would be a fun tradition to bring to the cemetary? Food and photos came to mind. My sister came up with the food solution – CHOCOLATE! For Christmas, Pop always gave Meme a box of Russell Stover choclates – the kind with descriptions of each chocolate, so you can avoid that yucky rasperry one. For photos, I flipped through the first half of a large photo album and pulled the Mom, Meme, Pop photos I liked. My sister pulled photos from the second half of the album. We put the photos in a fancy velvet bag (very mysterious for an 8 year old).
At the cemetary, we found the markers for Mom, Meme and Pop and we ate chocolates and reminisced. My niece patiently pulled photos out of the bag, one at a time, and listened to the stories that ensued (she also laughed at all the great 80’s fashions – remember neon and tight rolled jeans? Wait, I think that’s trendy again).
I won’t lie, it was hard for me – even 10 years after Mom’s death. But it was SO WORTH IT! I knew it was a success when I heard my niece telling a relative that we had fun eating chocolates and telling stories at the cemetary earlier that day. Mission accomplished!!!
(here’s a photo of us visiting Mom, Meme and Pop at the cemetary – I’m in the sunglasses)
Valentine’s Day: Tips for widows, widowers, and grieving people facing the day of love without yours