It is easy to feel helpless with the tragic and senseless loss of lives in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Whether it is a very public or personal loss, what can we do individually or collectively to honor the memory of lives lost?
A colleague donated books on horses to the local library when a friend’s young daughter died of cancer. She had loved horses and this was the way he chose to honor her memory.
When my 20-year old cousin died in an accident, my aunt and uncle set up a scholarship at his college in his name. I was visiting when a thank you letter arrived from a recipient, sharing how their generosity made a difference in his life. My sister did something similar when her college roommate died suddenly from an aneurism. She made a donation to their college to establish a scholarship in her name.
During the weeks our newborn was at Children’s Hospital, I always sought out one of the two rocking chairs in the ward. After her death, my husband and I donated a rocking chair to the cardiac unit with a brass plate noting that it was in our daughter’s and son’s memory.
The Alan Bukzin Memorial Donor Drive Day held at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia began in 1991 to find a potential bone marrow match for a professor. But it grew rapidly when Jay Bukzin led a search for a match for his brother, Alan, who died before a match could be found. It is now one of the most successful outreach programs in the country and I am proud to say that my daughter participated and in 2003, she became a bone marrow donor.
Susan Soper honors her dad’s memory by randomly handing out 100 Hershey bars on his birthday. And Elizabeth Edwards honored her son Wade’s memory by giving coupons to children for a free ice cream cone.
You too can give of yourself in some way following a loss. Any act of kindness should shed some light on even the darkest day.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.
Image: Snowflakes for Sandy Hook, a small but special way to remember those who died and support the surviving students and teachers (Flickr Creative Commons / ohmeaghan)