Celebration Rebound

by | Jun 10, 1998 | Excellence

It happens with regularity and yet each time it does I am still amazed. Each time I help someone it seems that I also benefit! This most recent demonstration of ripple-effect goodness took place in March as I struggled and reflected on a problem. A grieving mother needed help. She was depressed and had a problem regarding the loss of her son.

Now many of us have lost a loved one. My only son was killed at age 17. It shook my world so badly that I never thought I could ever regain my balance. So it seemed ideal that I should try to help another mom because I had a full understanding of the problem.

This lady was depressed and becoming very anxious as the birthday of her deceased child drew nearer. How could she get through this difficult time? Well when she wrote to me it was only weeks before my own son’s birthday. My past handling of this problem for eleven years has been poor! I ran from the pain, kept very busy and tried not to think about it. I cried off and on through out the birthday.

Now I was being called on to help someone else so I had to examine the problem more objectively.

Suddenly and with great ease an idea came to me. The answer seemed so obvious. I suggested that she needed to celebrate the life of her child. (Yes we both did!) We needed to focus on the time that we had shared with them, on the laughter and sunshine they had brought into our lives. So my next problem was to come up with some suggestions for celebrating the life of her son.

I provided her with a list of nine ideas, ways for celebrating this upcoming birthday. But things didn’t stop there.

I began thinking about that short list of ideas and wished it had been longer. I decided to call on the troops! I mailed out forty letters to friends asking them for their ideas. Within two days, my list of nine had grown to fifty. Some people sent in one idea, some four or five. The suggestions ranged from simple to elaborate. There were ideas that involved gardening, butterflies, baseball, gifts for others and service to others. The list was marvelous! I became excited each time I brought in the mail because even after I put it all together, more ideas trickled in!

I didn’t realize what an effect all this was going to have on me until a couple of days later.

My husband and I were getting ready for a big book launching celebration and the museum where it was to be held scheduled it for April 3, the birthday of my son. I met up with a friend and wanted to invite her to the book launching celebration. I said, “we are having a special function to celebrate the publication of our latest book, War On the Homefront. Can you please come? Oh and guess what day this is on? It is my son’s birthday. Isn’t that marvelous?” As I said this I grinned and looked happy.

She stared at me with a look of disbelief! She knew how difficult it was for me to get through special occasions yet I was looking joyful. That was the moment when I realized that something wonderful had taken place for me. For the first time in twelve years I was truly anticipating my son’s birthday I wanted to celebrate his life.

I realized that in trying to alter the perspective of one grieving mother, I had changed my own.

I know God puts people in our lives whom we are meant to help and I wanted to help this mother deal with her problem. I had no idea there was help coming for me too! Now I see that God had an even greater agenda. In helping her I helped myself. Good deeds often yield great blessings and I am overjoyed at what has happened. I am still marveling at the change that has taken place in my life.

I know without a doubt that when we reach out to one another across time and space, and when we attempt to help, to pray for, to console, to council or support one another, good things just have to happen.

I have also discovered that now it does not matter if I celebrate Jason’s birthday right on that special day or if I honour him on any day in that month, or in that year!. Now I am just thrilled that I do want to celebrate his life. I feel as if I have just stepped out into the sunshine! Now more tears are for the joy of knowing him.

Ellie Braun-Haley shaley@telusplanet.net

POST SCRIPT Jason would have been 29 years old. I now have many plans to celebrate his life. Oh and about all those ideas, Please write to me if you wish to have a copy. Just ask for the Celebrate Life list. It is still growing! Already, I have six more ideas to add to the fifty.

Jason’s memorial:


The Celebration List


In Memory of my loved one I Will Celebrate His/Her Life

1. Organize a Cemetery Memorial Ceremony in your town for loved ones. Get permission from the city fathers and contact a few people. Ask them if they would like to be included (honoring their loved ones) Select a date and make this an annual event. (It will grow) What positive things can you do at the graveside to celebrate the lives of these loved ones? If the ceremony is timed in the summer hours when the sun is still in the sky, plan a colorful release of balloons, each one with a name tag of the loved one. Invite a well known local singer to sing one special song. Set out candles (in protective holders) at the graves so that when the sun goes down they are left in vigil. Plan a hot chocolate and cold juice drink to follow. You be the one to organize and pay for the refreshments. This annual event will be a memorial to your loved one (and to many others)!

2. Put a photo of your deceased loved one on a stamp (available in Canada, through Canada Post) or as one mother suggested, have a stamp created that can be used when letters or cards are being sent by existing family members, ie. A rose (as her daughter loved roses)

3. Buy a birthday gift for him/her each year, and give it to someone in the community as a “secret pal,” i.e. leave it on the doorstep, having it delivered anonymously, etc.

4. Each Christmas one mother adopts an angel off the tree of a local charity. She then buys gifts for this living child in memory of “my little boy.”

5. “In Canada”, one mother wrote, “we have a country wide trail and one can buy a section of the trail and dedicate it to the memory of a loved one.” Someone did this for that mother in honour of her daughter Krissy and she runs by the memorial pavilion each week.

6. Live your life for two of you, time is precious and so are you.

7. Plant a tree, or put in a flower garden in memory of the loved one. Plant a flowering shrub. Betty’s daughter asked that roses be planted in her memory. (the daughter is dying as I write this) And Susan planted a Lilac tree which “reminds me of Angel’s uniqueness, beauty and blue eyes.”

8. Place a single flower on his grave and when you leave it there leave a promise to work hard to reach your own potential.

9. Go to a local elementary school and offer your time for an afternoon once per week. Or donate money to your child’s school for supplies. Or donate something needed to his former class room.

10. One lady wrote, “I ask MOM to ‘come’ and join me for a cup of tea in the garden. If the weather is foul, I will have it at my kitchen table, with a cup for me and a cup for her. We always had tea together when she was alive, and it is a tradition that I have carried on with MY daughter. “

11. Donate a book (or two) to a school library, a public library or a College library, in his name every year. His name will live as long as books do. If you choose good books, he will live forever. Check with your public library or local College library. Or think about your child’s favorite author and donate books by that author in her name.

12. Plant a bag of wild flower seeds, in your yard, in a desolate area, or some suitable location.

13. Release butterflies in honour of your loved one. There is one butterfly lady at 604 858 8991. Contact Adele LaRiviere and she will also advise you on how to start your own butterfly garden in memory of your loved one. Madamebutterfly@telus.net

14. Many people have groceries delivered because they can not get out. Think what a lift it would be if you contacted an organization that does the deliveries and sent along a single carnation to twenty of those people, with a sunshine card (cheery greeting) Then sign it in memory of your loved one.

15. In Vancouver, B.C. and in a park in Scotland there are park benches with brass metal donor plaques on the bench, saying “In Memory Of”. Check with your city parks department about doing this in your area. Or donate a Memorial bench on the school ground of the school your child attended.

16. Become a member of a group or organization that seems connected to your loved one. One Canadian mother started a chapter of Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers after her teenage son was hit by a car wile he was cycling in a park. The drunk’s car left the road and traveled right into the park! Another mother now gives her time to fund drive for cancer research after her child died following a long struggle with cancer.

17. One woman selected special rocks for her pond and garden in memory of her sister Angel. The rocks were not ordinary in that they had various inspirational messages written on them. She said,” I saw my perfect choice. There was only one and it had pretty spring flowers painted in the corner and the word “live” painted in big bold letters. I bought it and perched it on the edge of my pond. It sums up in one little word what Angel continues to teach me.”

18. Make or buy small gifts and visit a nursing home and give these out to those patients who get no visitors or few visitors and stay long enough to talk with them. They too have lost many loved ones by this time and need a friend.

19. Carol wrote, “when my mother died, to try and deal with my grief and wanting to do something for her birthday (which was six months after she died) I wrote a two page tribute to her. It described all of her wonderful attributes and characteristics and included as many of the wonderful memories of her that I could think of. I truly paid her a tribute and then I sent a copy of it to my Dad and each one of my siblings. Now my sister and I light a candle for her each year on her birthday and always read the tribute. (She died ten years ago this year) It truly is a way of “celebrating” her life and keeping her alive in our memory. She played an incredibly wonderful part in all of our lives and it would be sad for that memory to fade.

20. If your loved one was in a sport, ie., volley ball, soccer or baseball, football, hockey, then purchase equipment, or whatever might be needed by a peewee team just getting started, in the name of your loved one.

21. If your loved one was the more intellectual type, contribute a book or learning tool in that person’s name to an under privileged child.

22. With the help of friends, create a memorial web page, where other parents can visit and offer encouragement.

23. One lady wrote: “At the time when my mother was so sick and I knew she didn’t have long to live, I attended a Christmas eve service and went up to the front and lit a candle and said a prayer for her. I felt very spiritual and am sure God was watching and hearing everything that was in my heart. Also try lighting beautiful candles on the birthday of your loved one!

24. Have a family birthday celebration so his little brothers and sisters can always remember, too.

25. Adopt a child through World Vision,

26. Donate “his present” to Santa’s Anonymous each Christmas,

27. Support your local Music Festival with an award in the Family Music category

28. Establish an annual “Quality Citizenship Award” at a local Elementary School,

29. Do something special as a family each year on the week-end as close to his birthday as possible

30. Do a “Celebration of Life” scrapbook album showing for your loved one! Or help another bereaved mom do up a “Memory” scrapbook of favorite photos, drawings, etc.

31. One lovely lady wrote me about this expression of love:” when my cousin Jock drowned, his girlfriend sent Jock’s mother flowers on Mother’s Day for years. It meant a lot to know her son lived on in this woman’s memory!”

32. If you know what his/her favorite Charity was or think you know what they would have chosen, donate either some money or your time in his/her name!

33. Celebrate a deceased loved one’s life by reaching out to someone who you’ve lost touch with; renew your relationship; we all know that life is too short.

33. Go for a walk with your memories of them and later look for opportunities to minister to others who have recently lost a loved one.

34. Write a poem, song, or instrumental piece in memory of a beloved child.

35. Adopt an animal at your local zoo or shelter in his/her name. Or donate your time to an animal shelter. Also know that often they need pet food, newspapers, litter, old blankets and towels.

36. Many swimming pools, museums, and parks are in need of financial help, and many have wall plaques displaying the name plates of the donors. Make a donation and place on it the name of your loved one.

37. Whenever I donate even a small amount to a worthy cause I do it in honor of my child. Every year on his/her birthday donate the amount of money of his/her age to a charity. You have a whole year to put some money away for this, in a special jar .

38. If you live in an apartment building or have nowhere to plant flowers ask around. At one senior complex a gentleman planted and cared for flowers that were chosen by the residents. When they blossomed, they picked some of their plants. (a simple name on a stick identified the donor).

39. The first book I wrote was dedicated to my deceased son.

40. Have Birthday Party with family members or a few close friends. Dig out a photo album and spend fifteen minutes showing pictures of your loved one and traveling down memory lane. (Keep this short) Light candles, perhaps even enough for the number of years you shared with your child. Candles are so spiritual and I’m sure our departed loved ones would know

41. Send a hand written note to your other children to tell them how proud you are of them. One mother who contributed to this list, sent me three pages of ideas. (her daughter is in hospital dying). She mentioned that one of her daughters felt so left out as everyone constantly spoke of her dying sister. She knew (intellectually) that she was being silly yet emotionally she was a mess. Survivors often suffer when so much attention goes toward the dying. Be aware.

42. Mentor someone. Or become a Big Brother or a Big Sister.

43. Visit a bed ridden person (hospital or nursing home) and offer your services. Bring reading material and offer to write letters and then mail them (you buy the stamps). If it is allowed take your animal to the nursing homes as they often never see a live cat or dog after they enter. Do check first as some people have deadly allergies to animals.

44. Look around you. There are people suffering though many hard times. Take someone out to lunch as a goodness gesture. (In memory of a dad or mom)

45. Donate a trophy for Special Olympics in memory of your loved one.

46. Become a volunteer at a food bank or donate a huge hamper of especially good food to a food bank in honour of your loved one.

47. A woman in Illinois wrote a lady in Australia and offered to send up a balloon in memory of James. And then a woman in California said she would send up balloons, also. So on his birthday, in Australia, Illinois and California, colorful balloons hit the sky as a celebration of the life of James. Maggie, mother of James suggests you might wish to get something fancy like a butterfly shaped balloon, or something plain with a tag on it bearing the name of your loved one!

48. Start a Journal about all the Fun times you remember having with him/her.

49. Stanford University was built in 1919 from an endowment in memory of a 16 year old Leland Stanford who died of typhoid fever. Most of us won’t be able to donate five million dollars, but it is wonderful to see so much generated because of love for ones child. Just do your best!

50. Have a star in the sky named after your loved one.

It takes just one person with a quest to start something that may help millions. Think of Terry Fox, Canadian runner, who lost first a leg and then his life to cancer. And now every year tens of thousands run to raise money for cancer, (in his memory). In memory of your loved one celebrate his life, move forward and make a difference.

Contributors list With deep appreciation and a grateful thanks to all the contributors for this list of ideas. The contributors, from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U.S.A. are named and if known, their loved one is in brackets: Betty Brisson, (Kathy), Kathleen, Anne, Maggie Pospisil (James) ,Rosie Ann Williamson, Carol Ellis, Kathe Campbell, Christian Fisher, Deneene, Joan Wester Anderson, Beth, Betty Stonehouse, Jan Henderson (Seth), Margie Rice (Ryan), Deborah Werner, Harriet Sardeman, Anne Goodrich, Karen Kasiskrafty, Lea MacDonald, Jo Walker, Laura Porras, Susan Fahncke,(for angel) Mary Ellen, Alison, Eva Marie Everson, Sally (for Brandon), Alison. My thanks, EllieBraun-Haley shaley@telusplanet.net

Please feel free to reprint this and share it with all. AND IF YOU HAVE AN IDEA YOU WISH TO CONTRIBUTE SEND IT TO Ellie Braun-Haley shaley@telusplanet.net


Celebration Rebound