Tag Archives: family legacy

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.


Learning from Dorothy Howell Rodham

I was saddened to hear about the passing of Dorothy Howell Rodham. I was humbled and moved by Chelsea Clinton’s loving words of being a member of a multigenerational family and learning from her parents and grandmother.

Chelsea pointed out the importance of having her grandmother Dorothy, as the family matriarch, model healthy living and productivity. I could hear, in Chelsea’s voice, the fondness, respect, and adoration she held for grandmother.

I was a bit teary eyed listening, because Chelsea’s words made me think back to this past Sunday when my daughter was being interviewed about her experiences living in a multigenerational home.

During the interview, my daughter’s tone was energetic, warm, and lighthearted. She giggled when she recalled certain interactions with my mother-in-law…like the time my daughter sought advice on how not to fight over the Wii with her little brother. My daughter assumed my mother-in-law had a Wii or some other game system as a child. My mother-in-law didn’t miss a beat. She skipped over that generational divide and talked to my daughter about patience, understanding, and being a role model for her brother.

My daughter, during the interview, expressed the love and support she feels from my mother-in-law. She pointed out that my mother-in-law’s presence in our multigenerational home feels natural and uplifting. She said, “I wish other kids had this much one-on-one time with grandparents. They would see why history is important and they would learn to appreciate diverse perspectives.

In listening Chelsea’s words during her interview, I hope my own children, after growing up in a multigenerational home, will:

  • commit to making healthy choices for a healthy and balanced life
  • understand the importance of intergenerational connections
  • recognize the gift of time with older generations
  • potentially invite me to share a home with them…on down the road