The perfect way to commemorate a day of death

- through Francois Leclercq

Published on

Her phone rang and Mary Carol looked down to read the following text message:

Hi Mary Carol, I’m thinking of you today. I know this is a very difficult and sad day for you. Today is the day of his death. Your husband and my best friend left us two years ago.

As she read the text, Mary Carol wasn't sure how she felt. She wasn't sure what she was supposed to feel. In fact, this is not true; she felt guilty. It's not that she didn't remember that it was the anniversary of his death, it's that when she received the text, she was enjoying a happy, peaceful day with one of her best friends. Her friend noticed the change in Mary Carol's behavior and asked her what was wrong. Mary Carol shrugged her shoulders and showed the text to her friend.

Now it was her friend's turn to feel guilty as she looked at Mary Carol and said, "I'm sorry, I forgot." I knew it was that time of year, but I couldn't remember the actual date of his death. Together they fell silent, then returned to what they had been doing: catching up and resuming their activity.

After a while, Mary Carol told her friend she wanted to make a phone call. She realized she needed to make contact with her deceased husband's best friend. She thought the text was as much for him as for her. That day, she had plans and felt strong and protected. But what about her husband's best friend? This text was most likely his way of reaching out and saying, "Hey, I'm sad, I miss my best friend today." » And sure enough, that short phone call benefited them both, strengthening their bond and reminding them of someone they loved.

Later, Mary Carol would have plenty of time to reflect on her feelings and how she wanted to commemorate the dates of the deaths of her husband and other loved ones. She learned that she didn't necessarily feel the need to spend time on the anniversaries of her parents' deaths, her husband's deaths, or anyone's deaths. Those days, she would remember. She would probably spend a few minutes in contemplation or devote a little more time to her meditation practice. His preference was to live these days as if they were any other day, going about the business of life.

Some of his friends came from traditions that celebrate the anniversary of a death. Put up images and create an altar to show respect for the dead. On the day of death, they may have a special meal or cook some of the deceased's favorite dishes. Another friend took to social media to post pictures from the past and remind others that this was when her partner died. And yet another friend would refuse to interact with others because it was her time to be sad.

Can you discern a logical structure? The pattern is that we all find our own ways to deal with death days. There is no ideal way to recognize the day of death. And without a clear answer, you have permission to create your own ritual – or lack thereof. You also have permission to honor different days of death in different ways, perhaps by baking something special on the day your mother died and watching your father's favorite movie on the day he died. And maybe next year you'll do the exact same thing, or nothing. It doesn't matter how many years have passed. Let your feelings guide you. Give yourself some kindness and compassion.

How can we best support each other? With kindness and compassion and choosing actions with the intention of caring for each other. If you know your friend's day of death is coming, but you don't know how they are spending the day, reach out to them in a respectful place. If you feel like you have the type of relationship where you can ask, "Hey, what are you doing on the day your dad died?" So do it. If you're feeling unsure, send a card, drop off a meal or treats, or meet for a walk or coffee. Maybe you send a text, like this,

Hi Mary Carol, I’m thinking of you today. I know this is a very difficult and sad day for you. Today is the day of his death. Your husband and my best friend left us two years ago.

Most importantly, seek to suspend judgment. How you deal with a day of death is how you do it. When it is your turn, you will honor your loved ones in the best way possible, and I hope your living friends and family will respect your way, with love and compassion.

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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