As have many of you, I have had the experience of attending ZOOM memorials for people who have died. Some of these on-line gatherings were graveside funerals while others occurred weeks, months, or as in the case of my mother, a year after the person’s death.
These memorial tributes, organized by friends, family, or colleagues, each has its own unique imprint or presentation.
Sometimes people “perform” their tributes. I have attended gatherings with a montage of photographs; selections of the person’s favorite music, art, readings of prayers, poetry, inspirational passages, and personal messages. Most of these get-togethers encourage the sharing of a favorite story. The compilation of memories of people who knew the person at different points of their lives, when heard together, provide a rich portrait that I never would have had access to. It provides much more than my own “glimpse” into the life of this person. Each of our lives’ tapestries is made up of many threads.
I have hosted as well as attended these ZOOM memorials, two of which were for my beloved mother.
Technical challenges aside (and that is a HUGE aside) I have found much value from these experiences. And with the focus on one person at a time, “up close and VERY personal”, I am aware that this video platform amplifies our impact.
People who live far away would not have been able to attend in-person (even without COVID restrictions). Online, they can be present and if they choose to, share their observations about the person who died. I appreciate being able to listen deeply to learn more about who the person was to “this” speaker and, in particular, how they were influenced by the person being memorialized.
Some participants revisit a time in their life that they may not have thought about for decades.
A childhood friend of a woman who died shared her memories of how, as eight year-olds, their hours-long playdates took place in the kitchen where they created competing recipes, followed by taste tests for family members. How lovely to see a smile emerge through the tears of the 20-something year-old daughter of the deceased as she heard that her “foodie fabulous chef” mother’s love of cooking began at such a tender age.
At one memorial for a cherished father, an adult daughter openly and compassionately referenced the harsh discipline she experienced as a child. She shared this in the context of the complex, terrorizing experiences that her father suffered (and barely survived) as a teenager during wartime. She was able to have an expansive view of her father that allowed her to understood and appreciate him as a whole person.
As I said, I believe that stories and tributes can offer us a fuller picture of those who died than we can have on our own. A colleague’s view is different from a child’s which is different from a childhood friend’s. By paying attention to different perspectives, we broaden our view and see multiple facets of a person’s life. None of us is just one thing. There are myriad threads that make up our weave.
For friends and relatives who have not been in touch for years, being part of the ZOOM mosaic can ignite reconnection. For those who have been estranged, it can be a potential catalyst for rapprochement.
I felt distressed when I witnessed an estranged member of friend’s family share a story that was hurtful to others in the family. I asked: “What was the point?” A wise friend responded to me in a way I believe we can all learn from:
“It’s unfortunate when people’s egos/wounds feed the impulse to use a funeral to further a personal agenda that has nothing to do with honoring the deceased.”
I question the benefit of using such a setting as a forum to air long-held, unresolved grievances. I believe there is always a place for kindness. At the very least, particularly with family, these ZOOM gatherings give an opportunity to see who grew up to look or sound “just like” Uncle Joe, Aunt Rosemary, or Grandma Ruth!
Our kindness at these sensitive times is amplified, and that, to me, is enough of a reason to choose to be kind.
The past year has been one of cocooning at home for many of us, anxious to protect our loved ones and ourselves. For those who are essential workers and have been working outside of home, there have been additional stresses and anxieties. It has been, and continues to be, a time of tremendous anxiety and stress, navigating a changed world whether that world is local or global.
With increased vaccination compliance, more of us will be getting out of our homes and into situations where we will return to interactions with others. We may be dining with friends, returning to our workplace, traveling to visit family in person. Many of us will have hesitancy about these interactions, not only because of the ingrained heightened awareness of COVID-19 and transmissibility, but also because we may no longer be fully comfortable with social interactions.
This is where mindfulness can provide some space and clarity for us as we sort through our emotions and reactions. It’s important to take one step at a time and tune in to ourselves so we can better understand what feels right and what does not. If we gain clarity about what that looks like for each of us, we are less likely to bend to pressure to put ourselves in situations that are still uncomfortable.
Here are some helpful tips:
Tune into your body and sensations. See if you can sense where discomfort or anxiety expresses itself physically; is it a contraction of the stomach? Neck stiffness? Sweaty palms? Identify where, and then focus on slowly breathing in and out.
Identify your emotions. Tune inward and label how you feel. When we are specific about what we are feeling, we can then remind ourselves gently that the emotions are part of the experience and let them be. We don’t have to control them; just let them evolve so we can move through them.
This is a time for self-compassion. It helps to be patient and kind to ourselves. What often helps, is to talk to ourselves as if we were soothing a close friend or a child who feels hesitant or fearful . This way, we are more likely to take our time and proceed at our own pace.
Recently I was the recipient of the gift of music which was so much more than that. Yes, someone gave me their time, their talent, their expertise as they shared not only the music but the story behind the music. It was an incredibly meaningful experience. Such generosity! Our world needs kindness…kindness to all beings, human or not. If we each spread a little kindness daily, in the aggregate, the quantity of kindness put out into the world is significant. How easy it is to “gift” someone something inspirational: a photo, a kind word, a smile.
A small gesture with immense power.