Tag Archives: family history

23 ways to honor loved ones who have passed away

This post is dedicated to my mother-in-law, in honor of her late father, Manville W. Elmer.


I recently posted this question on my personal Facebook page:

How do you honor/remember loved ones, who have passed away, when their birthdays come around?

You see, I was thinking ahead to January 23 – today – because it’s the birthday of my mother-in-law’s father. She has written a few posts about her father’s amazing life and the legacy he left to the family.

I feel fortunate to have met my mother-in-law’s father (in 1996) and spent some time with him during visits to my mother-in-law’s hometown.

I enjoyed watching my hubby make homemade ice cream, with an old fashioned hand crank machine, with his grandfather. I was in complete shocked and laughed hysterical when one batch of ice cream didn’t make the cut – so hubby and his grandfather went to the small town grocery store, returned the ingredients from the “bad batch” -  picked up new ingredients – without paying for the new stuff – and waltzed right of the store to make more ice cream.

I have heard pieces of conversations my mother-in-law has had with her siblings as January 23 comes around on the calendar each year.

And here it is – January 23, again, and I’m thinking about my place in this family – the maternal side of hubby’s family. I’m wanting to keep my children connected to their great-grandfather. I’m trying to figure out how to positively  nurture family history – and create a space for honoring those who have touched us and are no longer with us. I’m hoping to keep the memories alive and the pain of the loss in a quiet space that keeps us whole and healing.

Here are 23 ways to honor loved ones who have passed away:

  1. Write a poem in honor of the loved one.
  2. Play their favorite music/songs.
  3. Record family members sharing favorite stories or memories of the person.
  4. Decorate the loved one’s headstone.
  5. Meet at the gravesite at a designated time, tell family stories, release balloons, and then go celebrate the person’s life.
  6. Moment of silence.
  7. Light a candle and tell the loved one the things they have missed over the year.
  8. Go out to dinner and toast the legacy that has been left.
  9. Cook the loved one’s favorite foods.
  10. Have a good cry.
  11. Do a community service project as a family.
  12. Have a birthday cake and celebrate the years the person was alive and with us.
  13. Participate in an activity we used to do together.
  14. Write messages, attach to a balloon filled with helium, and then set the message/balloons free.
  15. Wear a piece of jewelry that belonged to the loved one.
  16. Call other loved ones to talk about the deceased person. Talk about the deceased person’s influence on your life.
  17. Make a family quilt – from clothing of the loved one.
  18. Create a scrapbook.
  19. Make a donation in honor of the deceased loved one.
  20. Take a day off from work/school to rest and think about the loved one.
  21. Have a movie marathon – showing your deceased loved one’s favorite movies.
  22. Plant a tree or a garden.
  23. Write a letter to your loved one – and if appropriate, have the letter published.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this list.


The Sewing Machine {guest post}

Written by my mother-in-law, G.B.

There have been several.  But they have never been just a machine.  Sometimes they are the means to a dream.  Sometimes they are strongly connected to memories.  And they from been there from childhood. 

My Grandmother’s was a treadle machine.  You didn’t need electricity.  You were the power.  On extended visits during my childhood, doll clothes were made on it.  Or failure was learned there.  It was a diversion between exploring her extensive flower gardens, sitting on the long kitchen counter observing the production of great desserts, or playing in the jewelry box.  And she had vast resources of material.

Another was my Mom’s Kenmore.  It lived in a cabinet in the corner of the dining room.  It didn’t zig.  It didn’t zag.  But it sewed straight back and forth.  There were gadgets in the top drawer to make great buttonholes.

Of the four girls in the family, the oldest and youngest learned to sew.  Sewing was more of necessity then.  The 4-H sewing leader was fantastic.  That machine produced pencil skirts, sheath dresses, jackets and many, many patched jeans and overalls and one wedding dress, 2 bridesmaid dresses. 

A recent catalog advertized patched boyfriend jeans for $99.50.  And I thought , if my mom could have seen that ad.  Her patches were artistic in comparison.  Mom kept a tapestry on it that was a wedding gift in 1941.  That is folded in one of my boxes.

I bought my own portable in 1964.  Portable?  It weighed a ton.  It was not a favorite.  It was replaced by a Bernina in 1974.  It sewed countless sundresses, robes, shirts, costumes,  and quilts.  It passed on in 2005.

Now I only have a light weight portable that zigs and zags and does stretch stitches.  It has sewed matching dresses for granddaughters and robes for all the grandkids.  I made many memory teddy bears and celebration bears and bear playmates on it.  I have not purchased a serger or computerized machine. 

And in my space I also have a very old Singer.  I knew a man who repaired tents in WWII.  He raved about the machine he used and even owned one like it.  I asked him that IF he ever wanted to get rid of it to remember me.  No, but he volunteered to find one like it.  So I have a vintage gear-driven Singer that will sew through anything.  Out of its cabinet it wears a ton.  But it is cute.  It doesn’t zig and doesn’t zag.               


September 10 is Sewing Machine Day.

images 1, 2, 3

Teddy Bears & Family History {guest post}

Teddy Bear Day is Friday, September 9.


Teddy Bears , written by my mother-in-law, G.B.

No, I don’t have my childhood teddy bear.  I do have a picture of it.

Years ago I discovered  a great bear pattern using quilted material.  Since then I have made several for children and grandkids.  I experienced great satisfaction making bears for people.  It was hard to believe that within a box of old clothes or old quilts a bear was waiting to be found and given a home. The bear or bears became an essence of their owners. 

I had two old quilts to work with for several sisters.  The grandmothers were represented in two quilts and there were more than two people who wanted a piece of the memories.  And I made 5 or 6 bears.  And I was rewarded with smiles and tears.

There are other stories from other boxes. 

One of the last stories involved my dad’s plaid shirts.  Some were wool.  Some were cotton flannel.  They met the scissors.  And became 3 bears for 3 of his grandsons.  In the pocket of each bear was a playing card because Dad loved to play cards. 

There were bears out of mostly new material for grandkids.  The youngest granddaughter’s needs a trip to the hospital.  Her dad fell asleep on her bear and when she  pulled, the leg started to tear.  Tears followed.  Her bear was made of velvets and corduroy and brocades in all the colors of the rainbow. 

My bear I always associated with my paternal grandfather.  The bear along with a couple of dolls I believe were gifts from him.  Of course the best gift couldn’t be held.  It was riding with him in his 1958 blue Plymouth heading to the farm.  My feet just stuck out over the edge of passenger seat.  Those moments were the essence of pure childhood happiness.  I thought I was the luckiest person in the world.


Multigenerational Marathon Memories {guest post}

written by Kayce S. Hughlett

“The reason many of us feel we’ve “lost” our destinies is that we spend a lot of time putting on blinders.”   -Martha Beck

There is something magical and curious about ancestry and how it manifests itself throughout generations.  No matter how we think we can’t be like our parents, there often comes a time when we look in the mirror or hear something coming out of our mouths that rings of time gone by.

When I look at pictures and dig into childhood memories I notice that my sedentary grandmothers’ ways of being are a far cry from this woman who in middle age attempts ½ marathons and climbs rock walls.  As I recall my own mother flipping through a newspaper and floating through her days, it’s hard to see someone like me who reaches for her desire and loves life to the fullest.  Still, I know I have been shaped by those women who share my DNA and I wonder what I will pass along to my own children.

While I wasn’t prescient enough to ask the deep questions of my matriarchs while they were still living, I wonder what the “blinders” were that kept them from extolling the joy of life.  Poverty? Patriarchy? Peer pressure?  It’s hard for all of us to break away from societal guidelines and established patterns of being.  Hours shift into days that move to weeks, months and years until it’s labeled “too late.”  Somewhere along the way I have developed the belief that as long as we can breathe or form a thought in our head, there’s room for change, growth and abundant life.

I have a pet peeve about hearing people complain it’s too late – to change – to follow their dreams – to lose weight, etc.  Like I said, as long as you have breath and conscious thought, you can change.  Physical things may be harder to overcome (although not always impossible), but mentally we can still have control.  Our thoughts regulate our feelings that prompt our actions and ultimately either prove or disprove our original thoughts.  For example, if you tell yourself you could never complete a ½ marathon, you will most likely prove yourself true.  If, however, you change your mind slightly and begin to put one foot in front of the other, you may actually discover yourself completing that distance.

My own mother had early onset Alzheimer’s.  The signs began to show when I was a young bride and new mother.  She was 65.  She pretended like nothing was happening.  Not in a positive outlook way, but more like an ostrich with her head in the sand.  She slowly disintegrated and disappeared before our very eyes.  This tragedy cannot help but impact my siblings and me.  Each day we have a choice how we will choose to live and how we will share that with others.  We don’t know whether we will get Alzheimer’s or for that matter whether we’ll live to see another birthday, but my sister (who is 14 years older than I, and by default the matriarch of our family) has chosen to live her life to the fullest NOW.  No sedentary lifestyle for us.  No thank you!

She and I have become each other’s greatest cheerleaders.  We’ve coached each other through thick and thin (literally & figuratively).  At the age of 67, she emphatically decided she was sick of the myth that older women must succumb to the ravages of time.  Instead of consulting a plastic surgeon or quick fixes, she hired a life coach and began a remarkable process of transformation.  Her new mantra became “I’m building a better body.”  (In truth, she is building the “best” HER possible!)

As she began to build this authentic lifestyle, it became contagious.  The whole family started getting healthier.  When my sis completed her first 5K run (at 67), her daughter began training for triathlons.  I simultaneously discovered a passion for hot yoga and launched a new career.  The family gauntlet had been thrown down and a new standard of delightful, healthy and connected living manifested in our lives.

Last fall after Dianna (my sister) completed her 5K and was considering her next goal, I tossed out the idea of participating in the Seattle Rock n Roll ½ marathon. 

Months away it sounded like a great idea and so the two of us signed up.  Cheered on by my niece (47), I invited her to come from New York to join us.  The dominoes began to fall as she completed her registration and then added her two daughters (16 & 14) to the roster.  Only one female member of our two families remained, so with a little urging my 18-year-old daughter agreed to join us.

Well, lives get busy and race day arrived faster than we imagined.  Our training schedules were spotty and although we presented as a physically fit group, my niece proclaimed the night before the event, “This may be the dumbest thing we’ve ever done.”  Or… perhaps it was the best.


Kayce S. Hughlett is known as a soulful and spirited woman. In her roles as life coach, writer, and group speaker/facilitator, she invites us to playfully and fearlessly cross the thresholds toward authentic living.  Kayce’s work focuses on helping high-functioning, under-living people uncover & maintain personal delight & joy in life.  Her personal reflections can be found at Diamonds in the Sky with Lucy.  Learn more about her work at Diamonds in the Soul.



Here and Now {July 19}


> parents have arrived from Georgia.

> mom is singing classic children’s songs to my four-year-old  – and making up her own words.

> daughter is playing The Phantom of the Opera on the piano for her grandparents.

> stepfather is reading a Dora book to my four-year-old and getting corrected on his Spanish pronunciation by my four-year-old.

> mom is telling funny and sweet stories about her eldest sister – who is 14 years my mom’s senior.

> stepfather was mistakenly trying to explain how to take a picture, with his phone, to my twelve-year-old.

> mom and I rescued a beloved train costume, for my four-year-old, that hubby put into the giveaway pile.

> parents are asking my twelve-year-old if she is ready to become a teenager.

> parents are shocked my twelve-year-old has a babysitting job later this today.

> parents are gushing that today is my 13th wedding anniversary.

> four-year-old is telling my stepfather, “Monsters don’t have mouths in my world!”

> multigenerational family and my heart are full.





Memorial Day {My mother-in-law’s memories of loved ones}

Written by Kanesha’s mother-in-law.


Memorial Day

To Re-Mind.  To bring to the thoughts and heart again.  Remember.  To walk between the rows of headstones.  In an instant they become more than names carved into the rock.  They are words, smiles, laughter etc etc etc.

Sarah, grandmother. A farm woman, who milked her last cow by hand into her 80’s.  Who let her grandkids play in her jewelry box.  (I have her biggest, gaudiest pink earrings.)  She taught me to sew on a machine with foot power.  According to my dad, she was the easiest person in the world to get along with.

Bill, maternal grandfather. A quiet man who did his best to destroy the weeds in his corn and bean fields.  He had a row of snuff cans on the window ledge by the kitchen sink.  He was seldom generous but when he was, it over the top.

Bill, paternal grandfather. He retired from farming and lived in town across the street from the park.  I loved to ride in the front seat of his 58 blue Plymouth.  I am thrilled when I can find pieces of this man in the people I meet.  Of course, as the oldest granddaughter I enjoyed gifts of teddy bears and dolls.  He died at the young age of 62.

Uncle Orville on my mom’s side. He was her 2nd brother, she being the oldest.  He was killed in a car wreck at the age of 23, having served in WWII as a sailor.  I was almost two when that happened.  His death brought a terrible unspoken loss to the family.  In my mind he is this handsome (true) rebel hero that raced around the country roads on his Indian motorcycle.  I always look for incredible things to happen in my life on his birthday.

Uncle Orlend on my mom’s side. He was her 1st brother who lived in the shadow of his younger brother, though both were equally tall and handsome.

Uncle Billy on my mom’s side. He was her baby brother.  He was only 13 when I was born and there are many pictures of him carrying me on his shoulders.  No blizzard could keep him home if there was a bowling ball that needed to be rolled.

Aunt Darlene and Uncle Marvin, my mom’s only sister and her husband. I loved to stay at their home and play with the boy cousins.  My uncle was one of the original dumpster divers.  He found old toys and could fix anything.  They were a very loving couple.

Great grandfather Bill. He was still sitting on his front porch with his leather flyswatter when I was in my early teens.  He lived with his daughter and my grandfather in the house by the park.  He built his first house from a kit ordered from the catalog.

Mom & Dad. The last to be added.  They rest together under a headstone that bears the names of their 5 children.  The stone sits on the edge of cemetery and when I drive along that road at night, it is the only stone that catches the headlights and winks back…as if to say, I see you and I am watching and please be careful.

Memorial Day in a small town in southern MN.  The school marching band gathers at the cemetery and plays Taps.  The military color guard fires a 21 gun salute.  There is a full crowd in attendance.  And it is very quiet and everyone is remembering.

Then the quiet is broken and the crowd slowly disappears.

Happy Memorial Day!