If you have lost a loved one and want to be intentional about spending special dates with a heart of peace and thankfulness, try following these five steps on your loved one's birthday, the anniversary of their passing, or any date that is especially memorable.
Step 1: Do something they loved to do
My father loved to dance and he was had fabulous moves. Sadly, I did not inherit his rhythm, but that doesn't mean we were about to sit out on his special day. On my dad's birthday, the kids and I started the morning with a dance party. I played some of his favorite songs and danced with my kids the way my father always danced with me, while I stood on the coffee table or on his feet. Our daughter was born to be on a stage and is completely enthralled with dancing, so she thoroughly enjoyed this tribute to her Poppy. We rocked out to Al Jolson, Bee Gees, and Rick Astley to start our full day of celebration.
Step 2. Go somewhere that was especially meaningful to them
My father grew up vacationing in Beach Haven, New Jersey. Once he had a family of his own, he continued to visit this little beach town, making new memories with his wife and children. Now that we are stationed at West Point in New York, it only felt right to travel to Beach Haven on my dad's birthday. After our dance party, the kids and I made the three-hour drive to the beach. Even with no naps, the kids were angels on the way down (a gift my dad must have arranged from up above!). Adeline and Lincoln were elated to be at the beach and enjoyed splashing in the waves, building sand castles, chasing birds, and burying themselves in the sand.
3. Do something to honor their life
This being the first year since my father's passing, I decided to spread his ashes in the ocean on his birthday. He would have turned 67 last month, but instead, he's spending eternity in Heaven. Talk about a birthday gift to top all gifts! After playing for awhile, the kids and I walked down to the one deserted spot on the beach. I explained to Adeline what we were about to do as Lincoln played unknowingly in the sand. Just as Adeline and I were about to place my dad's ashes into the ocean, a giant seashell peeked out from under the waves. We didn't see ONE other seashell the entire afternoon so I thought this find was pretty remarkable. We spread his ashes in the water and then gathered sand from nearby in a jar as a memento from the afternoon. The children were so sweet and seemed to understand the circumstance beyond their ability.
4. Eat their favorite meal
After our afternoon at the beach, we found a burger joint for dinner. My dad could have lived on cheeseburgers and fries alone so it was the perfect choice for a meal before we headed back to New York. My dad would have been pleased. After dinner, we drove back to the West Point area and once again the kids were sensational--definitely a God-thing if you know how Lincoln and the car seat get along.
5. Enjoy a special treat they would appreciate
There was only one choice when it came to choosing a treat my dad would love. Whenever I went to visit my dad as an adult, I would ask him if there was anything I could bring him. Without fail, he'd respond, "A chocolate milkshake." After we put the kids to bed that night, I went right to the kitchen to make a milkshake. It was the perfect end to a memorable day, honoring the life of my father.
If you have lost someone special, I hope these five steps help ease the pain of loss as you live out a day that your loved one would enjoy.
How do you remember the life of a deceased loved one on special occasions? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments sections!