How to Live Life with Love

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It’s a knotty little problem.

Memorial papers.

Those programs you receive when you attend a funeral.

What do you do with them?

If you’re like me, you take them home.

Unsure of what to do.

You’re not sure how to deal with them respectfully.

And you might want to look at them again, anyway.

So, unable and unwilling to throw them away, you put them in a drawer.

Where they stay. For years sometimes.

Maybe you see them now and again as you go about your days.

But you tend to pass over them.

Doing nothing.

Feeling guilty.

Putting things off for another day.

And so it was I had funeral service papers of a friend who died a couple of years ago.

Someone whose service I had been unable to go to.

But whose family had taken the trouble to send me all the papers and photos as though I had been there.

But now it was time to time to let go.

I’d been sad at the time but it was time to move on.

And so during the week I completely my timelessness experiment I performed the ritual I started in 2003 when the son of another friend died.

The Ritual

I wait until no-one is home, take some matches, clear a space outside and light candles.

Once I have read all the papers, I set them alight with a candle.

And watch while they burn.

And once there are only ashes left. I take them and plant a flower I have bought, using the ashes to supplement as fertilizer.

Somehow the supporting of new life with remnants of the old completes a circle for me.

I do this for every memorial order of service I receive.

This time, though, it took much longer than normal.

Because in the wedge of papers I had of my friend’s life, was a poem.

And I thought it was wonderful.

I read it three times.

It encapsulates in one little thing – the dash – the years of life between our birth and death.

And how we can make the most of them.

Take a read of it. And have a little think…

A Little Dash By Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end.

He noted that first came her date of birth
And spoke of the following dates with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth

For it matters not, how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard…
Are there things you’d like to change ?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect
And more often wear a smile,
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash ?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori
Twitter:
February 14, 2012 at 9:26 am

Allison, I love your ritual. πŸ™‚
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Alison Golden February 14, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Thank you Lori, it is very calming for me.

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Mary E. Ulrich
Twitter:
February 14, 2012 at 9:49 am

What a lovely ritual. I like the idea of celebrating the person’s life–the dash. And the rememberences are more meaningful than just throwing them in the trash.

Many cultures burn all the belongings of a person who dies (and some, the actual person). Planting a tree or flower with the ashes is a great idea.

I’ve decided my ashes should be spread over a tree in the Smoky Mountains that grows in the middle of a river bed. It makes me think my ashes would have a functional purpose of supporting the life of this particular tree that I find inspiring. Not sure it will happen, but funerals belong to the living–so it’s up to my family.

Our culture does wierd things around death. I think your ritual is a lovely way to remember the “dash.”
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Allie
Twitter:
February 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Mary,

Your comment gave me chills. I would like to have my ashes spread over Yosemite. It has always been a place of solace for me. But my relatives think that is a horrible thing, to be cremated. So I started to agree with them. But the way you describe it, it sounds very peaceful.

~Allie
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Alison Golden February 14, 2012 at 7:44 pm

In the UK they now do green funerals. The ashes of a cremated person are kept in a biodegradeable box and buried under a sapling which then acts as the memorial. It’s quite popular apparently. A nice idea. I’m all for losing the weirdness about death. I try to do my bit.

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Mary E. Ulrich
Twitter:
February 15, 2012 at 3:27 am

Love this green idea. And Allie, Yosemite–what a beautiful place to rest for eternity. To me, it makes more sense to have my family visit a favorite place rather than spending thousands of dollars for a crypt in a place with a bunch of other dead people. Plus, in my mind it violates the idea of a circle of life. I want my legacy to be about living, not artifical flowers on a concrete slab. I would hope my family would treasure the times we spent in the mountains and the natural beauty of life and death.
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Allie
Twitter:
February 15, 2012 at 6:06 am

Mary,

It does make perfect sense. Not only can they visit Yosemite and remember how much I loved it, I will be there in spirit too.

And you are right, this way makes more sense for the circle of life. I never thought of it that way.

And on a lighter note, who wants to hang around a bunch of dead boring people, I’d rather be watching people enjoy themselves. πŸ™‚

~Allie
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Allie
Twitter:
February 14, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Alison,

What a respectful way to lay rest to a memory of someone.

My husband had an uncle pass away a couple of years ago. His little memorial card keeps finding it’s way onto my dresser. Actually I stick it in my husband’s sock drawer and he keeps pulling it out. I don’t know what to do with it.

Now let me tell you, he was a mean man. So to burn it would almost feel like I was taking revenge on the man. Eeek.

But I really like your idea, it is very respectful.

~Allie
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Alison Golden February 14, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Sounds like he’s still rankling you, Allie πŸ™ Why don’t you burn it, then scatter the ashes in a park somewhere?

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Allie
Twitter:
February 15, 2012 at 6:01 am

Alison,

If it pops up again, I will. Who knows where he is hiding right now. LOL.

~Allie
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