Jessie Woods


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As I approach my sunset years, more and more of my friends and loved ones are crossing over. Death is becoming a part of our lives whether we are prepared for it or not. The question everyone’s asking is “How do we honor those that are leaving us behind?” Are there ways that we can celebrate what that person meant to us and the human angel role they played in our lives?

My father passed away unexpectedly in January ’09. Poppa was the spark of our large family and his death left a huge hole that my family struggled to deal with. As we gathered around my mother, we were faced with the reality of life without the man that had made our family strong. We were like boats on a turbulent sea bumping into each other with no direction. The first stage of grief was taking its toll…shock.

The weeks past with no relief in sight as we lived our lives in a fog of sadness, tears and regrets. My father was cremated and we’d had the traditional memorial service, however none of us felt like we had paid our proper respects by honoring the man daddy truly was. The guilt we felt of not being able to speak weighed heavy on our hearts. What could we now do to rectify what we felt as a failing on our part at his service to say goodbye to the man that had played such a huge part in who we were? Was it too late? Had we missed the one opportunity to show our love and pride?

I turned to my dear friend Sandy who had worked in funeral service as a grief counselor for thirty years. My family needed help and she reached out her hand to us in our greatest hour of darkness. Over the next months Sandy encouraged us to talk about and remember all the wonderful memories, fun and laughter we had shared together. Our hearts were beginning to heal…we were learning the art of celebration instead of grief.

As spring approached, mom expressed her desire to spread daddy’s ashes in a place that was special to them both. This was the perfect opportunity to step up and have a celebration of life. With Sandy’s coaching everyone wrote down their favorite memory and last goodbyes to the man we had loved and respected. This was very healing in its self and the realization that we had passed through another stage of grief and were on our way to acceptance lightened our hearts.

On a beautiful sunny day in April, through tears and laughter, we read all of the wonderful notes that people had written…we had created our Celebration of Life. As the gentle breeze carried the ashes away we knew his spirit would continue to live in and through us.

Have you experienced a loss that you are having trouble dealing with? Do you not have a pastor that can assist you in creating your memorial service? A loss of this kind can pull your family together or tear it apart. The choice is yours. You can continue to live with the heartache and grief or you can accept the gift of love that is being passed to you through this most sacred of transitions…death.

My family wishes to reach our hands out to you, just as Sandy did for us, in understanding and compassion. I pray the story of my family and how we honored the memory of our father will help you in creating your own life celebrations.

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