On August 14, 2010, my family and I hosted a Memorial to commemorate the 20 years since my father died at the too-young-age of 54. We held it on his birthday (he would have been 75) because - with so much water having flowed under the bridge - we wanted it to be a celebration of life.
When my brother stood up to welcome everybody to the party, he touched on a note that made the event much more personal to those - including myself - who didn't necessarily know my dad very well. He mentioned that my dad wasn't the only person missing, but rather that all of us had someone who couldn't be there. No one, except maybe the youngest of the young, has gone without the loss of a loved one. We all recognized those passed with a collective moment of silence.
In that silence, I could hear a hundred different prayers, salutations, and calls of love. There were a hundred people who wanted to feel the embrace of those who can no longer embrace; hear the voice, witness the smile, and feel the presence of those who are now so tangibly absent. I'm quite certain that all those to whom we were calling could feel our pull.
The greater testament to death is life. We often think about loss associated with its effects on us - the living, the remaining legacy - and how it hurts. Some people experience guilt, others anger, abandonment, confusion, hardship...but we can also experience peace, strength, solace, solidarity, gratitude or even relief. We have no power over what has gone, but we do have the will to proceed with our lives. We are left to grow, to learn, to experience new things, to love others, to change our circumstances and to recognize how each breathing day we have is a gift.
Even though it was my father's passing that had prompted us to bring the family together, it was the surviving life-force that prompted everyone to show up. We all wanted to be together, to reconnect, to share memories and to make new ones. It was wonderful to see all the smiling, beautiful faces of family members from 8-months to 80-years old. We were surrounding each other with love...which is the most life-affirming force that any of us can describe.