Four not-bummer ways to keep a memorial in the home

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Since we covered memorials for missing pets, I’ve been thinking about similarly not-completely-sad ways to keep the memory of a human loved one close. I mean, if you have a gigantor oil painting of Great Aunt Emma, that’s one way to remember her at her smiling best — but if not? How can you keep a memorial that doesn’t make you a sad panda? Here are four starters:

Plant flowers

When I die, plant some asters in remembrance of me. Every fall they’ll bloom big and purple and fat bumblebees will crawl over them. So will praying mantises. I will be happy.

If your loved one had a stated favorite flower or an appreciation for one in their home, keeping these flowers around will be a drifting reminder. This option is particularly nice if you aren’t sure you can handle an all-night-and-all-day memorial — most flowers are fairly short-blooming. Even my nasturtiums, which are the longest-blooming flower I’ve raised, will be gone soon.

Just because you don’t know if they had a favorite flower doesn’t mean you can’t use this as a memorial, anyway. Find a bloom you think your person would have appreciated and cultivate it in their honor. They’d be glad if their death means you get a moment of happiness from a beautiful plant.

Use symbols in the entryway

Taking photos of home vignettes is HOT on the home decor blogs — take a page from this trend to make a pretty, not-heavy memorial in a place you use often. If your entry way isn’t well-suited to a small, pretty shelf, maybe there is a hallway or a nook or a space above your desk which you would see often.

Photo by Avia Venefica, used under Creative Commons license.

Choose a few symbols of a person or people — rings, drawings, notes, memorabilia of what you did together — and arrange them together on a suitably-sized shelf. Using symbolic objects can help lessen the sting of loss — coming home to an assemblage of personal effects is much less jarring than seeing a photo every day.

Keep a book

If your loved one had a favorite book, add a copy of it to your bookshelves. You’ll happen upon it once in a while when you’re looking to reread the last Sookie Stackhouse book.

Make a donation

March of the Baby TurtlesYou might consider supporting a cause close to the deceased’s heart. This can cover a spectrum — maybe you find a Kickstarter project you think he or she would love, or maybe you buy a brick at the new town hall. Buy a cow for a family in the third world, or support your local animal rescue. And if you really want to bring the memorial home, tuck the thank-you note you get in the frame of a photo of your friend. It’s always nice to remember the good things we do because someone else had a positive influence on us.

How have you memorialized a person who’s passed in a way that helped you keep them visible in your life? Snap us a photo and share all in the comments.

Comments on Four not-bummer ways to keep a memorial in the home

  1. I have a shelf with objects that belonged to my dad: a t-shirt he loved (despite its terrible salmon shade), a Communion kit from his job (chaplain), a Bible he owned since his seminary days (even though I’m an agnostic), and a small, not-overwhelming photo of us together. The shelf isn’t in the entryway, but it’s in a spot where I can see it from the couch.

    I also rode in his favourite charity bike-a-thon — once with him, once the summer after he died.

    Planting something is an idea I hadn’t thought of, but next year — knock wood — I will have a house of my own. I’ll have to give some thought as to how best to incorporate his love of vegetable gardening and the mountains into my yard.

  2. When my grandmother passed a few days before Christmas, my husband bought a shadow box, added a picture of my sister and I with my grandmother, and filled it with some of the crafts my grandmother painted, and put it under the tree for me. I love it because the picture is from the last time I saw her– we were so happy. And the crafts all have the same sweetness she had. It’s full of happy memories, even if they’re still fresh wounds.

  3. It might seem daft but whenever we lost someone or a pet, we would always plant a flower or bush in their memory. We’re not a family for whom big funerals or memorials are important but a living thing to commemorate their life is.

  4. I love the idea of keeping a book. My grandma loved reading, and after her funeral I took one of her Janet Evanovich novels home on the plane. Every time I see that book on my shelf, I imagine Gramma laughing out loud at jokes I wouldn’t have considered “appropriate” for a grandmother, and it makes me smile.

  5. Or…display something your loved one used while alive and well.

    My uncle was part of the early skating culture here in SoCal way back in the ’60s, and I proudly display the skateboard he made in wood shop. Seeing that board helps me remember him as the overgrown kid I remember, not the deeply depressed adult he was toward the end.

  6. This isn’t really home decor, but I have several pieces of jewelry from both my grandmothers. They are my most cherished posessions. I have my granny’s wedding set, a ring my grampy designed and I nearly always get compliments when I wear it. I also have a ring my grandma’s that has my birth stone. I didn’t really like the setting, and I really struggled over whether or not I should have it changed. I finally realized that she would have done exactly the same thing, and often changed settings or stones in jewelry to suit her liking. I think of both of them every time I wear the rings.

  7. When my grandmother died, I took one mirror, some brass owls she bought at a thrift store and one coffee mug. I brush my hair in the mirror, drink coffee from the mug and look at the owls daily. Before she died she gave me a few pieces of jewelry that I wear often, even if they’re too ‘fancy’ for work. She would have approved.

    Also, a tattoo, but that’s not for everyone.

  8. My uncle was dying of cancer a few years ago. My mom was pretty upset, though they weren’t related by blood- he was my mom’s sister’s husband. For Christmas I made a donation to the American Cancer Society. He died about a week before Christmas, and she was very moved. I’ve stopped getting her “things” for Christmas since then (well, her main gift anyway- I’ll get small, inexpensive things) and instead donate to different charities.

    Personally, I have memories of those who have gone, but I love the plant and charities ideas. Very lovely!

  9. My baba died last year which I’m still pretty cut up about… I occasionally buy babushkas and babushka items as a memory (Baba is short for babushka) and now have a delicious little shelf just in front of the sink where my babushka collection is growing 🙂

  10. i still don’t know how to memorialize my miscarriage. i’m torn between having a constant reminder about it and honoring the life that left us.

    perhaps there is a time and place in the healing process that allows you to make a memorial? but right now, probably isn’t that time for me.

    i dont know when it’ll ever be, but for now, i’m just getting by. thanks for the light at the end of the tunnel 🙂

    • The way my mum did it with my would be siblings was planting the placenta etc underneath a rosebush that had some part of the child’s name in it… I think if it were me, I couldn’t really handle the whole “oozey” stuff (mentally AND physically) but the rose with the name is nice… i.e. My middle name is Gabrielle, so it would be a Gabriella rose or something.

      I’m so sorry for your loss though and I can’t imagine how hard it must be – whatever you choose down the track will be amazing, I’m sure… Love and light.

    • I feel you. I read this article searching for a way to appropriately honor my stillborn daughter. And I have to say, making a donation to a charity or planting a flower doesn’t seem quite enough somehow. I have a small urn containing her ashes and a photo. I struggle with finding a place in my home that I can place these things which seems appropriate—honored, but private, without feeling like I am ashamed of my loss or that she is hidden away. My one photo is extremely important to me. I can see how beautiful she would have been, how much she looked like me. But I don’t want to talk about her with people I don’t know well, or startle acquaintances.

  11. I’ve been meaning to comment on this for a couple days. When our son died, my husband’s rugby team in New Mexico sent a basket with a peace lily and ivy to the funeral ceremony we had. We’ve kept both plants in our window for the last five years – the original ivy ended up getting over watered and died, but we replaced it with the same plant. When my husband’s grandmother died, we brought home a plant from her funeral, and now it lives on the shelf next to Will’s plants. We see them every day, and it’s not a bummer at all. It’s also great because not only do I think of Will and Grandma Marybelle, I think of the people who sent the plants to the services.
    Here’s a picture –

  12. When my grandfather died almost 20 years ago, my grandmother planted a tree outside the RV spot they had bought at their favorite campsite. It’s massive now, and many kids, including myself, have spent long summer days playing and napping under its branches. Since my grandfather was a principal, I think he’d approve of that kind of memorial.

  13. my step mother passes away tthis summer, and im still looking for a way to remember her. I live in a dorm, so a lot of things are no nos. I have pictures, but the most recent one is shocking to look at- it just hurts. Any suggestions of dorm friendly ideas?

    • Any of these in conceivable in a dorm! But easiest would be a book or a symbolic collection. Even something as simple as a card from her is less jarring than a photo but also sweet to remember.

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