One of the often unaddressed issues families face after a loved one dies, is what to keep and how to keep it? Often times we feel inclined to keep a LOT – sure we can donate some things or divvy them up amongst family – but the need to preserve and hold on is a part or phase of grieving for many people. Over time, as we begin to identify the items that hold the most meaning for us we can begin to alleviate ourselves of the less significant items. Eventually, these can be given away or donated without pain. It’s natural and it’s good to be patient with ourselves as we move through this.
But there often is the case of what do I DO with this stuff I can’t bear to get rid of?
“What do I do with the pretty peach sweater she wore to my graduation? Or the mint colored nightgown she wore the morning we had our last cup of coffee together? What about her favorite blue sweater I loved to see her wear because it made her blue eyes sparkle?”
These were Leah’s questions about what to do with treasured articles of clothing her mother left behind after her death in 2016.
When she heard that one of our funeral arrangers’ mothers was an avid quilter she realized she’d found the perfect way to give these items a presence and use in her daily life.
Mary Ann took over the Philanthropic Chair of her quilt guild 7 years ago and since then has provided quilts for local hospitals, mental health facilities, shelters, families in distress, homeless and many others in need here in Orange County and even nationwide. This year, she was the recipient of the “Golden Thimble” award for her heart of generosity and spirit of encouragement. Mary Ann has created and given quilts to families we’ve served at O’Connor that needed extra comfort and been a source of good to people she’ll never meet.
Back to our story,
Leah took her heavy bag of clothes from her mother and favorite items her sons had worn when they were kids (hence, Spiderman) to Mary Ann and asked if she would please create a quilt for her. Mary Ann took care to get the special pieces all compiled together into the perfect quilt for Leah.
Now, on display in her home and used frequently, this quilt of memories keeps Leah warm, connects her to her loved ones, and holds in one place treasures spanning her life.
What I love about items like these, is you can talk about them and share them with people. They offer us continuous perspective by allowing us to look back and frequently remember when things were different. And most importantly, they help us make use – active use – of items we otherwise would have packed away with twinges of guilt.
As the holidays approach, you may be able to think of someone in your life (or perhaps yourself) who would benefit from a gift like this. There are so many ways to encapsulate and creatively remember our loved ones through re-purposing pieces from our shared past.
Here are a couple of ideas for meaning gifts:
- Custom Pottery – We all have that “famous family recipe” in Grandma’s handwriting. This Etsy company will take the handwriting, a photo, whatever you like and glaze it onto a serving platter or other dish you can use for family gatherings. I LOVE this idea!
- Comfort Quilt – If you loved the quilt idea of this blog, look no further. Contact Jennie, one of our arrangers and Mary Ann’s daughter. No surprise, she is happy to help!
- Christmas Ornament – you can take a clear glass Christmas ornament and fill is with small photos and mementos of your loved one and tie it off with a ribbon or piece of fabric from something they loved. This idea is so sweet with the holidays being a beautiful time of tradition – placing ornaments like these on the tree creates a special moment and a small, but loving tribute. See some more examples here, and here.
Take your time thinking and creating. I think the best items that come out of this way of thinking are items you use or look at frequently that are made up of pieces you want to keep near and on hand. As I was browsing on Pinterest (a great source for even more ideas!) I came across this last image and was so moved by it.
These ideas don’t bring MORE items into your home, they bring more richness to your life by using and enjoying the treasures of your loved ones and your past.