2023 - December - Gazette - Let's Remember

By: Jackie Naginey Hook
Thursday, December 28, 2023

Let’s Remember

Just a few days ago our family received a large tin of popcorn as a holiday gift. One-half of the tin was filled with caramel corn, one-quarter with buttered popcorn, and one-quarter with cheese flavored popcorn. It was the abundance of caramel corn that caught my attention.

My sister-in-law Cheryl was a huge fan of caramel corn. Her favorite caramel corn came from, Knoebels Amusement Park. Sadly, she passed away last July. But it felt good to remember her as I smelled the caramel corn.

Earlier this month I was unpacking our storage containers of Christmas ornaments and I found one I handmade from a picture of our good friend, Jim. His smile reminded me of the time some forty years ago when we sang “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” together at the top of our lungs. Jim died more than a decade ago and it felt good to remember him as I looked at the picture.

Last week my sister texted me and asked if I knew where our grandmother’s hand-painted ceramic Santa sleigh set was. I took a picture of it in our dry sink and sent it to her. This well-loved set has been a part of my Christmases for as long as I can remember. I’ve looked at it every day lately and thought of my grandmother. Grandma died more than 50 years ago and it feels good to remember her.

Sometimes remembering feels good, at other times it feels painful. As I’ve companioned people on their grief journeys, I’ve heard them talk about how grief changes but never totally ends. And they say they don’t want it to end because they don’t want to forget their loved ones.

In the three examples of remembering I’ve done recently, it felt both painful and good. I’ve felt a little heartache, but smiled and felt comforted too. I’ve also felt grateful. Grief and gratitude are two sides of the same coin. I like these words from author, James Miller:

“This is the direction in which all grief naturally and eventually leads.

After the shock,
after the sorrow,
after the emptiness,
after the missing,
and after all the changing,
we come upon something that has been there all along,
but now we experience it in a clearer way:
the gratitude.

The gratitude that they lived,
that they walked this path beside us,
whatever the length of time,
that they looked up at the same stars
and down at the same earth,
whatever the number of times.

We know the gratitude for what they shared
with us while they could,
what they taught us,
knowingly or unknowingly,
what they brought out in us that has come to serve us well.

We can hold with gratitude
the fact that their spirit,
their essence has not gone away.

They left it here for us, within us,
for a day just like this day
for a life just like our life.”

As we get ready to say goodbye to 2023, we invite you to remember your lost loved ones with some gratitude. One way is to join us in decorating the First Night Remembrance Tree with the names of those no longer here. The tree and ornament supplies will be available in the Borough Building on Allen Street during First Night. A second way to remember is to drive through the Koch Funeral Home parking lot after sundown on New Year’s Eve to see the luminarias representing each person Koch staff cared for during the calendar year. It’s a powerful image that reminds us how the light of individuals lives live on after their deaths. It’s that light that helps us feel the gratitude as we remember.

And when you want to move some of the grief on the other side of the coin, please join us at the following programs.

More information can be found on the Bereavement Gatherings and Events page of the Koch Funeral Home website. To reserve your spot and receive the invitation links, email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-237-2712, or visit the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page @kochFH.

Jackie Naginey Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant, and end-of-life doula.  She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College.  For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.

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