My husband’s step-brother died a week ago yesterday. While a close family member’s death usually brings grief, this one did not. This man had managed to alienate most of his family and friends, and in the end, he died alone.
To be truthful, it was not entirely his fault. Mental illness is insidious. I won’t go into my tirade of how the mentally ill really need to seek treatment and follow their doctors’ orders; I’ll only say that he did not. And when he died, he left his estranged children with the task of setting his affairs in order and arranging for cremation.
So – how do you hold a memorial service for someone that nobody was even going to miss? His siblings and children asked us to host an open house in his honor. The event that actually transpired was a celebration of family.
The open house was pretty much the same as a luncheon following a funeral service – only without the funeral. Or, since we live in Utah, without the funeral potatoes. We had fresh flowers on the tables and a display of photos of the deceased, but the photos all had family members as well.
We had not seen some of the family members who attended in over 20 years. Some I did not recognize. Little children had grown up and brought children of their own. Some were in poor health. Some of this man’s family had also not seen one another in over 20 years. There were tear-filled hugs and past-due reconciliations.
We reminisced about the good times we’d had together. Conversations revolved around the family. We caught up with one another’s lives. I uttered the words, “I am sorry for your loss,” only once – to the father of the deceased man who has now felt the tragedy of burying three of his sons.
I write this in gratitude for family. I was so honored to be a part of what turned out to be a blessing for the family and friends of this man. And if the occasion ever presents itself again, I will be honored to host a Celebration of Family.