Saturday, April 16, 2016

N is for Not forgotten

Bring photos of any family members who have passed on, and thus can no longer be with the group other than in fond memory. Display the photos on a table decorated with flowers and candles, and any other significant objects you would like to display. “They are Not forgotten,” is the message this gives to the children, and the adults in your family as well.

I had this idea after seeing the elaborate altars displayed here in the American Southwest at the time of the Mexican Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). The altars are called ofrendas (translation: offering), and in that tradition, people place bright orange and yellow marigolds, decorated candied skulls made from compressed sugar, and the favorite foods and drinks of the departed on the altar (sometimes including alcohol for an adult; toys for children). These offerings encourage their spirits to feel at home and welcome. They also place on display objects that belonged to the deceased. Lit candles are placed on one tier of the altar. Religious objects are often included on the altar.

This creation is intended to welcome the deceased. For you, this description may be the starting point in your creative process to develop your own way of honoring the departed. The point here is to allow an opportunity for your family to reflect on the life of the deceased and remember them. Encourage other family members to contribute, and let participants know in advance that you’ll have a space for constructing the display.

You may want to suggest that people write poems, letters, and messages to the person to place on the table. They can always pick them up when the altar is disassembled at the end of the reunion, so that their message remains private. Supply pens and paper for anyone who would like to do this while at the reunion if they haven’t brought any writing with them. You could have a ritual at the end of the reunion where you have a bonfire or a fire in a fireplace inside the house, and people who brought written messages can throw them in the fire, releasing them on the tendrils of smoke. This can be a healing activity for people.

Have crayons and paper nearby so children can join in on the activity and write or draw a picture for the person. Have their favorite music playing softly on a wireless speaker on the table. Above all, be creative. You can have more than one person remembered on the table as well. Have sections if you have to so that no one feels slighted. It can be a place to bring shared memories or individual stories about the person to share with the other family members. It can be as formal or casual as you like. It can be a place of remembrance and story and positive energy.

Have a photo taken of the display that you can all keep with your other family reunion photos. Not forgotten.

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