Creating memorial rituals


I created a ritual to remember my Grandma one pie at a time. What do you do to stay connected?

My maternal grandmother was a sweet woman. Everyone says that about their old grannies, I know, but I mean mine was after every sort of sweet candy, cake, cookie and pie (especially pie!) she could get her hands on. She was a sweet soul, too, don't get me wrong, but I loved the way she would allow us to have dessert first, and how when she went to Vegas with Grandpa she would head straight to the dessert buffets. While everyone else was clambering for all-you-can-eat lobster or crab claws, my skinny Granny was loading her plate with two slices of pie and was on her second cookie before she got back to the table. Frances Hansen Rawls, originally from White Lake, South Dakota, had a mean sweet tooth. When she left us, in 2002, she was in her 90's, and had asked us "not to make a fuss" when was gone. My mom kept her word and we had no funeral or service. There was no ritual, public or private, to mark her passing. Her home was sold. And that was that. The end of a long life full of raising children and other people's children, and building and running a successful candy vending business. To make things worse, for me, at least, she was buried about an hour's drive from San Diego, where I live. I needed something more. I needed something to hang on to, some place closer to home to go to remember her and my grandfather. I needed a way create that soft, warm, happy feeling that came only from my grandparents in my life. No one else in my family seemed particularly interested in creating a place or a ritual or a way of memorializing her. My mom is fine with having fulfilled her mother's wishes. Grandma Rawls was a very practical woman, having been raised in a Danish immigrant household in South Dakota, Lutheran no less; she grew into adulthood during the Great Depression and raised her daughter during WWII. Still, I had a hole in my heart to fill, and I am not as practical. I am an emotional therapist. So I created Pie Day. This is a day to eat as much pie as you want, and to tell stories of the people you love the most. It is on September 2nd every year because that was Grandma Rawls' birthday. This modest, but delicious, little ritual helps me keep that warm feeling going, and has helped me connect with friends and coworkers who also miss their loved ones. I've held a pie vigil at Marie Calendars. I've baked homemade pies and had a pie festival. This year, a coworker brought me a huge pie from Costco without me even reminding her it was Pie Day soon. She remembered last year's feast and was moved to help me celebrate this year. We ate massive slices and remembered our Grandmas together. I am sometimes a stranger in my own family, but I'm okay with that now. I've learned that I have to invent my own ways of being, of remembering, of comforting my hurts, and pf maintaining a link with special people who contributed so much to my life. Last year, my dad passed away. I'm searching for the thing I will do to remember him. I haven't quite decided what it will be yet, but I know I have to have something. It's for me, of course, and maybe some others that want to join in, either for my father or their own, or just because. Even in a families that aren't really into memorials or rituals, there are members who have their own needs. I celebrate folks who are willing to step outside the circles prescribed for us and create new ways of being, being happy, being connected, being sweet to themselves and others.