A Gift of Remembrance

January 16, 2024

With the holidays here, we are often confronted with absence, the missing of loved ones, family or friends who once gathered with us at special occasions and have since passed away. Recently I was surprised by grief as I set a festive table. On a hammered copper napkin ring, I had written in indelible ink “mom,” signifying my mother’s seat. My mom died last year (at 99). In fact, she was one of the last of our family’s elders who joined us most holidays. Now I would be allotted that ring as “mom” of the family. Without fanfare, my husband and I are suddenly the elders at the table— another sting of grief, a subtle reminder of our own senescence. Yet as legacies endure, we reminisce about the departed. It’s usually the idiosyncrasies we most cherish—their gestures, outfits, my mom’s too sweet, sweet potato casserole. The memories not only give comfort but remind me of the eternal nature of life that hovers at ground level, especially our ancestral DNA.

How to honor this presence? A gift of remembrance can be appropriate this time of year. Don’t overlook the significance of a tree planted in a loved one’s honor, whether at home or a meaningful place. I planted a young dogwood on our property last spring as a tribute to my mother, and I often find myself whispering endearments when I walk by it. Even a small sapling, well-tended, can become a sentinel grown-up someday. As long as the ground is not frozen, trees can be planted into the winter. When the tree awakens from dormancy in the spring, it’s poised to take root. Otherwise, an IOU for March or April does the trick. We can revere a passed loved one and help the Earth flourish with one sensible present.