A year ago today a cherished young man was swept away from us.

We remember this boy from the time he was a toddler.  We cling to the bright and shiny keepsakes of smiles, songs and mischievous looks.  We think of him as he ducked his head and grinned.  If we listen carefully we can hear his voice.  Or because we live with social media, we can go to his Facebook page and re-play a video.

Mostly, though, he is captured forever as he jumped for the basket in his purple uniform or slumped in the front of the screen with our grandsons as he rooted for his favorite athlete or giggled at cartoons.  Later he is laughing at adolescent humor in raucous movies. I have a vivid mental image of him as he grew tall and strong.  He would slump lackadaisically with his arm draped around the shoulders of one of the important women in his life, his mother or my daughter-in-law.

When we talk about him, we laugh about the funny things he said.  We marvel at his brilliance, his athletic prowess and his service to community.   I haven’t heard about his dirty bedroom or his reluctance to take a shower when he was eleven. No one says, “Man, remember when he used to ignore everything he was told?”

But it was all a part of who he was.  These are the things that bring him into three-dimensional focus.

A few years ago in Mexico I attended a Velada, 24-hour vigil commemorating the one-year anniversary of a son’s death.  The photos on display weren’t those of him as an innocent child.  They were stiff and formal portraits of him as a drug lord. The fact that he was engaged in illicit activity didn’t change the fact that he was the beloved son and brother of the family.  I understood this perfectly.

And I like the concepts of both the velada and the total acceptance of the beloved son.

Maybe it would be comforting to the father of our young man if everyone sat with him.  Perhaps saying nothing.  Just being there.  It would help him know that his son is not forgotten; his memory weaves its way in and through our lives in the days since he is gone from our physical reach. And we fondly remember that he was real.

I can’t be with his father or my son’s family on this anniversary.  I’m not there to touch and be with them in the spirit of remembrance.  Yet, I have an urge to do something.  Instead of memorializing I want to actualize.

Today I cherish every memory I have with the ones I love.  I value an argument over the vegetables swept to the corner of the plate as much as the quick hug on the way out the door.  I am washing socks with the same appreciation as I once washed small faces turned up for my approval.  I’m thinking that admiring gazes are no more precious than the grouchy, harried visages that sometimes greet me.

This is not to dishonor the memory of a fine young man.  It is to acknowledge that our love doesn’t need perfection to be complete. We live imperfectly. We love imperfectly. We remember perfectly.



  1. I hope this doesn’t sound offensive, but personally, I believe that death is an illusion. I grew up with a Christian protestant socialization, but my mom is a meditation teacher, so I’ve always felt very close to Eastern philosophy. I believe in rebirth, and that the many layers of past, future, or possible manifestations of existence somehow exist parallel to each other. Time and space are relative. So actually, this means that in every single moment, everything and everybody is always there. And even when you believe in the finality of death, the loved ones still live in our hearts forever.


    • Kath, this is not at all offensive. I don’t think of death as an illusion, but I certainly believe that we only move into a dimension that is invisible to us here. Of course, none of us can know exactly what or where that is. I also understand the finality of the loss of physical presence of those we love and the difficulty of dealing with that loss. I have great compassion for parents who lose their children because it is something that I have never been able to contemplate. My mind shears away from that. I also have witnessed the difficulty of young people and children comprehending and reconciling the death of their peers.

      It’s a difficult and personal situation. We all deal with it in a personal way. The more I study eastern philosophies, the more accepting I am.


      • Oh, I didn’t want to say that death isn’t real, but I think it’s not final. Actually, I think we have quite the similar idea, that the people who died just move on to some place we can’t follow to (yet), but that doesn’t mean they’re away. But of course, there’s a physical distance.

        Eastern philosophy has very much helped me to accept things I couldn’t influence or avoid. And yes, I agree it’s very personal, and somewhat incomprehensible.


  2. And that is the biggest problem of mankind. We remember perfectly. Since both Kath who has commented above and you appear to be involved with Eastern philosophies, I hazard this comment. The problem is not, I repeat not in coming to terms with death of a dear one. The problem is in our clinging to memories and our inability to let go. This problem is not unique to death related matters only, but other pain causing events and incidents, like perceived injustice, insult, hurt etc.

    No, death certainly is not an illusion. Every “THING” is an illusion with no substance. A conclusion that science too has come to accept. If there is no perceiver, matter does not exist, as we understand the word. Memory too is a “thing” and, and it exists only as long as there is a perceiver. If the perceiver can train herself to drop perceiving, such problems get resolved.


    • Thank you, Rummuser! I’m very happy you dared this comment. 🙂

      I very much agree with what you’ve said. It’s funny (in a way) that many people may think of a statement like that as harsh or even cruel, but in fact, it’s an expression of pure kindness. It says that there actually is no pain, but we make up ourselves what makes us suffer. I somehow know this intellectually, but it’s still not easy to follow on the level of emotions and *real* understanding. I’m constantly on my way to learn that, as I think it’s the only way for me to bear living this life. Things tend to touch me very deeply, and I know they will tear me apart on the inside if I don’t learn how to let go.

      I like what you said about science. I’m about to head into science myself, and I think of myself as half a natural scientist and half a metaphysician. The latter part is more important, though. There’s so much science can’t capture, and it’s tragically comical that it so much clings to the ideal of objectivity, while in fact, there’s only subjectivity and consciousness. Tee-hee. 🙂


    • Yes, Ramana, I agree with you on letting go of feelings and memories that are replays that hold us in place. However, I must protest in giving up memories and feelings that give me great joy. Some of my memories are of those who are still in this human plane, some not…but I can laugh and smile and have many a warm glow over sweet memories.

      My goal is always to get beyond the “death” and revel in the wonderful life.


  3. So, so sorry. Sometimes there are no other words.

    I lost my dad a few years ago. The anniversaries are hard, but I’m finding they are getting easier as the years go on. Instead of crying with the memories, I laugh with the remembrance. And I like to think of him out there, reborn maybe, lying in a crib, with sunlight streaming in the window, kicking his feet and babbling happily. It might sound crazy, but it gives me comfort.


Agree? Disagree? Have your say...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s