Last Friday, I held a Celebration of Life event in honor of my father, who died May 17. The primary purpose was to give some family and friends — who otherwise didn’t have it — an opportunity to pay tribute to Dad.
While the event focused on a man who saw 90 years of life, the ceremony, like most, if not all, such ceremonies, was more for the living, not the deceased.
This does not diminish the intent of celebrating the life of my father. It just means such a ceremony most benefits loved ones who are there for special reasons, be it healing, support, comfort or closure.
This ceremony was no different.
In that respect, the Celebration of Life struck me as reflecting the theme of a short story I had written and published many years ago title “Act Like No One’s Watching.” In it, two friends unintentionally abscond with the cremated remains of a buddy and decide to incorporate the remains in one last act of a tradition they kept together.
Ceremonies are for the living, one of the characters, in essence, surmises. And it is a stark truth.
Going into the planning of the Celebration of Life, I wanted to provide this chance because Dad’s memorial service in May had been semi-private, and I believed some family and friends needed that opportunity to honor him. I guess I needed to make sure such an opportunity existed.
I spent hours creating a video presentation that included photos and memories I had solicited from family and friends in addition to poring over hundreds of photos in my personal collection. My other half, Rebecca, and I worked on other preparations, too, designing a folded program, creating an event on Facebook, inviting people, putting together keepsakes, arranging refreshments and coordinating the rental of The Brown-Pusey House.
Most of the small list of invited family and friends who knew Dad were unable to attend the Celebration of Life. But several friends and former co-workers I had invited who I felt formed a foundation of support were present. This included a friend who had known my father for many years.
For hours, we enjoyed each other’s company and shared memories. We ate, drank and laughed. We watched the presentation and swapped stories.
Becca and I passed out cigars with tags attached noting the occasion. Dad was
notorious for his cigars.
We also had a fifth of whiskey available for anyone who wanted to imbibe a shot or mix a drink. Dad also enjoyed his whiskey.
It was a night I was surrounded by bittersweet recollections, bolstered by wonderful friends.
So even though this ceremony honored Dad's memory it wasn’t really for him.
Ceremonies are for the living.
And we are the living.