Memorialize a Departed Loved One
By Leah Lancione
It’s never easy to say goodbye to loved ones, but there are ways to keep their spirit alive while also bringing a smile to people’s faces. It’s particularly special to memorialize a veteran because by honoring just one, you are, in effect, acknowledging the service and sacrifice of all who defended or continue to fight for our nation. Since veterans often receive a proper funeral with all the pomp and circumstance of a military tribute, it’s only fitting that you carry on the attitude of respect by sharing your gratitude on this and all Memorial Days. Here are a few ideas for commemorating the life and service of a veteran:
~ Placing flowers on the grave of a loved one is a meaningful act that goes all the way back to the ancient Romans who decorated gravesites so the spirits of the departed could wander around in a beautiful environment. Americans often decorate the gravesites of their loved ones on specific days of the year—birthdays, anniversaries and, of course, Memorial Day when many place patriotic flower arrangements. To make the gesture even more personal, consider researching the language of flowers and make floral selections that tell a story of your admiration and remembrance. For example, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, Nasturtium symbolizes patriotism, red tulips a declaration of love, Myrtle represents an emblem of marriage or true love, Zinnias evoke thoughts of absent friends and violets express loyalty, devotion and faithfulness. Leave a flag and a little card that tells the significance of each flower present.
~ Those with a real green thumb can also opt to create a remembrance garden at home with a tree planted in a loved one’s honor. Houzz.com says doing so is like planting one in celebration of a birth. “The tree symbolizes not the fact that your loved one has died, but that he or she lived.” The site recommends a flowering tree that will grow and blossom each year, symbolizing the circle of life. Another nice touch is to add a personalized memorial flag like those available at Things Remembered (online or in the store).
~ A fun way to remember your loved one while also honoring all veterans is to hold a Memorial Day cookout with current and former service members included. At 3 p.m. have everyone pause to “reflect on the sacrifices made by the men and women who died defending the freedoms and values we enjoy today,” as defined in the National Moment of Remembrance Act that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 2000 (www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=967). If little ones are in attendance, hand out mini-American flags to add to the momentous patriotic event.
~ A benefit provided by the president’s office is to receive a free engraved paper certificate, the official Presidential Memorial Certificate, signed by the current president to “honor the memory of honorably discharged deceased Veterans.” This document can be framed and placed alongside other photographs and memorabilia of your beloved veteran.
~ In the same vein, create a memorial the entire family can enjoy by having a cherished or recognizable garment framed by a professional framer. Display the tribute in a special glass display case with other sentimental mementos and photos. Many choose to have a flag framed and displayed, which is a worthy mark of respect, but framing an article of clothing that may be identifiable even to younger family members adds a personal and heart-warming touch.
~ If there’s room, you can also create a little corner dedicated completely to your loved one’s memory. Maybe there’s a spot where he or she used to sit and read where you can set out favorite books along with other trinkets that will help recall pleasant moments. A personalized memorial frame with a photo will contribute to the desired effect.
~ There is also a way to pay homage to your loved one while touching the lives of others in the community by contributing to a beautification initiative like Anne Arundel County Department of Parks & Recreations’ Lasting Gift Program (www.aacounty.org/RecParks/lastinggift/lastinggift.cfm#.UzLrvahdWSo). “The program offers the opportunity to select designated options to celebrate life by enhancing parklands through sponsorship of a lasting gift.” This stewardship opportunity enables you to acknowledge your loved one for years to come while also helping conserve area parklands and trails. Lasting Gift suggestions include: personalized bricks, park benches, gardens, playground equipment or other park beautification measures. Queen Anne’s County also offers a similar opportunity to memorialize individuals through park memorials. (www.parksnrec.org/hiker-biker-trails/park-memorials)
However you decide to commemorate Memorial Day each year, remember that by paying tribute to your loved one’s service, as well as all veterans’ sacrifices to protect our freedom, shows younger generations the importance of service and supporting our troops. Visit the United States Veterans Legacy Project (www.veteranslegacy.net) for more ideas on how to further the distinguished legacy of our nation’s heroes.