My mom's been gone for almost 14 years now. When she died I found ways to honor her memory and keep her with me.
I made her fabulous lasagna. I used her yellow Pyrex bowl to make chocolate chip cookies just like she did. I treasured her hand-written recipes. I made decisions based on what she would like or what she would think was a good idea. I tried to be the kind of mom she was. I started going back to church and embraced genealogy and family history. I ate and bought things that she liked, like See's candy and Hallmark cards and ornaments.
Keeping her alive in my heart has been easy and brought me so much comfort.
Now with the passing of my dad I am finding ways to honor him. I know that he was so proud of me for going back to school and for taking care of myself and my kids, and that brings me comfort, but I have really felt the need to get back to all the things he helped me fall in love with: fly fishing, camping, hiking, just enjoying nature and the great outdoors.
Camping trips were part of our life growing up, and as I became a teen and mom and my sister preferred not to do that type of thing and had work to contend with, my dad would take just me on trips up to our old home town in the mountains, where we would fish at Nelson Creek (he always said Crick for creek so that's how I hear it in my mind), and we would pack a picnic and visit the lookout towers, or drive through the game refuge and count deer at dusk.
He's the one that taught me that everything tastes better if you eat it outdoors. My grandma (his mom) lived alone and we would pack our lunches at her house. We began the tradition of putting just mustard on our salami sandwiches because of the one time my dad opened the seldom-used mayo at her house and found it an off-putting shade of green! (We discreetly tossed it in the trash.) I remember eating those simple sandwiches paired with a couple nectarines at the top of a mountain at a lookout tower, and he was right, they were delicious! (And we always had a running green mayonnaise joke.)
He took me to "Secret Lake", which was a lake at the top of a mountain with no defined trail to it. Only the locals really knew about it, and it was a great place to catch native Brook trout. There was actually an even more secret, upper Secret Lake, and it was here that we found a patch of snow that had not melted and he pulled his rain slicker out of his pack so we could go "butt sliding" on it.
Dad knew almost all the names of the plants and he loved seeing the wildflowers. He also loved finding bear scat, and inspecting it with a stick to see "what the bears have been eating". I thought that was so gross!
Later, when he was no longer able to make these trips and I was grown and had kids of my own, he relished hearing the details of any camping trip I took and loved to hear about my kayak outings.
I'm making a conscious effort to start doing more of these things, and not someday, but now. I bought what I call my "adventure car" and plan on going and doing as much as I can, even if I go alone. I feel like I'm finding my "old self" again in some way, the old self that's been on hold for lack of money, or time, or someone interested in doing things with me.
I somehow feel like when a person dies their spirit is perfected and all those things that were holding them back in life, be it health issues, age, depression, anxiety, etc. are gone, and they go back to their most perfect self, the one that was carefree, and funny, and curious, and happy, and somehow by honoring our loved ones and channeling their interests and loves, they enhance our lives from the spirit world.
So now to honor my father, I will do those things we loved doing together. And I will continue to honor both my mother and father, in different ways and keep them close to my heart.