Pancakes and Christmas trees remind me of my dad. He made sure that in our house, holiday traditions started the second Thanksgiving ended. After he died, my mom and I continued to go to the same Christmas tree lot followed by the same nearby diner every year. Going to these familiar places made us feel closer to him. Keeping the traditions he loved alive was also our way of honoring him. The word honor holds a profound weight that can sometimes feel unattainable, especially in a world where grand gestures are marked by media coverage and trending hashtags. Through my personal experience with loss and the learnings from my work at Lantern — a digital tool that helps people navigate end-of-life and death — I’ve seen a wide array of ways that people honor someone they love after death:
- Tell their stories. Recalling your favorite stories — the ones that really showcase who they were — and sharing them out loud can be a great way to honor someone. It means that those memories live on within you and also in the hearts and minds of those you share them with. I’ve made a habit of writing down my own stories in a notebook on anniversaries and birthdays as a way of sharing my life with my dad in return.
- Do something they loved. My mom and I maintain certain traditions, like pancakes and Christmas trees, that my dad and grandmother loved. For my grandmother we make Campari and soda. It was her favorite cocktail when she was feeling fancy or missing Italy. The taste of Campari immediately brings me back to her house where we spent many dinners and holidays together. Connecting with your person can mean a trip to a special spot, or simply enjoying their favorite food or book.
- Spend your time wisely. I found Experience Camps abruptly and without expectation. At the end of my first week, I stood on the camp dock and thought “this is it.” My “spending time wisely” lived on this little lake buzzing from a marshmallow sugar high, team chants after an intense college league match, and a quick high-five between a 9-year-old and the high school senior he just became brothers with. I realized that finding passion, living a fulfilled life and making the world a bit better can be the greatest way to honor someone. Find something that you can’t help but talk about and makes you jump out of bed in the morning to get started.
- Fundraise. Speaking from someone who’s always had a tight budget, making large donations is something I dream of but can’t quite do yet. Luckily, companies like Crowdrise have made it easy to rally your community around a cause. If it’s looking like a larger donation is possible, you can also consider a named fund (like the one Experience Camps offers here). Every year, I fundraise around the anniversary of my dad’s death. It’s an opportunity to raise money for a cause he would’ve loved, but it’s also a time to share his stories and photos with friends and family.
The act of honoring someone you love is deeply personal and can’t be prescribed by a list on the internet. That said, I believe that if we can strive to do good, to build a community of support for others, and to feel like each day was a day well spent, we’re doing it right.
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