Planning a Mexican Memorial During Covid

funeral flowers

I had a very unusual grief reaction to my husband Chuck’s death in January 2021. I lost my memory. Couldn’t remember my pin number for my cell phone, my daughter’s name, to pay the mortgages or credit card bills or how to solve any problems. My mind was a blank. It was terrifying.

My son and daughter, seeing that I couldn’t take care of myself put me in Casa Nostra, an assisted living facility for a month. There, I could be alone and cry, be fed three meals a day, have visitors if I chose, be given medicines and helped to take a shower. People were kind.

Slowly, I began to recover my brain power. I had the added benefit of working with the staff chiropractor to release the grief that was causing body pain. The sound of pain is not silence and I was encouraged to cry and scream. That works and thankfully the chiropractor could tolerate the noise.

So it was that time passed and we hadn’t planned or carried out the memorial service. My husband had been in Alcoholics Anonymous for 48 years so we had a small gathering at the Legion in order for his AA friends to fill Chuck’s oldest daughter in on our 21 years in Mexico, as well as the process of his recovery journey.

But that wasn’t the official Celebration of Life that would include family and friends from places where we had lived in the US. So, we planned the formal occasion to coincide with his birthday.

During her last visit when he was alive, this daughter, Hope, had asked her father what he wanted included in the ceremony. He told her the songs, the poetry and that he wanted the first chapter read of Robert Rourke’s The Old Man’s Boy Grows Older. One might think these questions would be hard to ask but Chuck had had a debilitating illness for 12 years, a heart attack and stroke and lately had started having TIAs. He had lost his ability to walk and was in pretty much constant pain. It was time. Jokingly he asked for a five-day funeral having heard of five-day weddings held in India.

Since Hope works at the Apple home office, she volunteered to create the video of Chuck’s life. She solicited friends and relatives for photos to include, and they poured in.

A local friend set up the Zoom meeting and collected emails of the folks who wanted to attend. Chuck’s other daughter was selected to read the poem he chose and his son played Happy Birthday and Moon River on the saxophone. I read the eulogy that I wrote which consisted of short clips about our 45 years together. And Hope played the loving video she compiled that documented a life well lived.

Next the people who had gathered from around the world to participate had their chance to share: first the family and then friends.

I am including the YouTube link for the video because I want everyone to see what is possible and how it becomes a treasure that can be viewed over and over. I have seen it many times and every time I do, he comes alive again.

Much of the resulting celebration was serendipitous but easy to replicate. We did it because of Covid but it is a common-sense approach for Mexico memorials and Lakeside in particular. Not everyone can afford to fly in for funerals; waiting a few months to conduct the ceremony is considerate for everyone involved and allows the family to emerge from shock and deep grief to remember every detail they want to include. We have the support staff locally to make this kind of thing happen.

I don’t think there is any book of etiquette on how memorials are to be done, or in what time frame. It is important to talk to the potential dying to ask how they want to be remembered, to begin to think of the things you want to have highlighted about your life together and how you want to participate.

Even though we had months to prepare we still forgot many people. It has been wonderful for me to be able to give the link to Chuck’s memorial, months after his death and have people get back to me with compliments of how accurate it was in describing him and how comforting to be able to participate, even so long after his death and the memorial.

April 2022 Issue

El Ojo del Lago – Home Page

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Donna Mansfield
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