Everyone owns his or her own consolations. Whether you believe that things happen for a reason or you believe you will someday be reunited with your dearly departed or you simply take comfort in the community created by such a loss, a memorial will gracefully cradle your grief.
Memorials are important because of their healing power. They are tangible, sharable, verifiable evidence of the impact of a single life. There are pitifully few things that transcend religious or spiritual proclivities so completely. Even fewer things allow the person “left behind” to feel a little bit of control over his or her experience.
For folks like me, those of us so rooted on the earth that ideas like “meant to be” offer no solace, a memorial allows us to wallow in selfish sentimentality, reflect on our luck, and gain a type of deliverance that is usually unavailable to our skeptical selves.
It seems almost ironic that in the honoring of someone else we achieve an utterly selfish catharsis. But it shouldn’t surprise us. When we lose someone, we not only suffer a great loss, we are smacked with an up-close-and-personal example of our own fleeting existence. Constructing a permanent reminder or creating a universally appreciated “greater good” helps us achieve permanence for our love. For, at the heart of every memorial, there are two truths: One is a reminder of a universal rule of happiness — that it is better to give than to receive; the other is an implicit call to action to treasure what is now.
If you haven’t already done so, please check out the Petfinder Foundation’s new memorial wall. It offers a chance to remember your friend and make a long-lasting impact in his or her honor through a gift to help pets not yet fortunate enough to know the love of a forever home.