Some marriages are meant last forever, but when one partner dies, wedding anniversaries can be a poignant time. How do you celebrate a momentous anniversary such as a silver or gold one when one partner has passed on and one is still grieving?
When my father died in 1981, my mother entered a new stage of her life. It has proved to be as happy and fulfilling as her married years, but she chose to remain faithfully married and to celebrate subsequent anniversaries in the same way as before. To the rest of her family, these wedding anniversaries have taken on a new meaning. For us, they have become celebrations of the faith and fidelity of true soul mates.
Just three years after he died, my mother faced her fiftieth anniversary alone. It was an occasion she had been looking forward to so much and one we had been planning for a decade. It could have been one of her saddest days. Instead it was joyous.
We bought cards and presents with a golden theme, and decorated her apartment in gold streamers and balloons. Among the gifts was a picture of my father in a golden frame, a tea set with a golden trim, and a small gold bell that could be rung at the same hour as her wedding.
But while the presents glittered, they couldn’t outshine the golden memories that we shared of a husband, father and grandfather.
One of the tasks we set for ourselves was to sort through decades of photos and create scrapbooks of those memories with personal journaling from those who knew him. My scrapbook project was based around the John Lennon song "In My Life" with photos of the various stages of my parents’ life together starting with their courting days during World War II.
This celebration helped my mother to rebuild her new life alone sure in the knowledge that the man she had loved would not be forgotten and that his legacy would remain strong for his grandchildren, some of whom he would never know, and his great grandchildren, whom he did not live to see.
In the West, we tend to hush death up and hide it away, fearful of its effect on the living. But in other cultures, the dead are welcomed to remain in the memories of the living and are treated with honor. So don’t be afraid of a looming significant anniversary when one beloved partner has passed away. Celebrate the love that remains alive and well.