Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Remembering Noah @ 25

 (Noah on French houseboat, 2009)

Memorials are often optimistically called celebrations of life. But how do you celebrate the life of a young person who took his life—who both suffered from and caused so much pain? My husband and I certainly weren’t ready for any sort of celebration after our son’s funeral in 2013 or at his memorial in 2014. 

We weren’t even sure we were ready last Saturday for Remembering Noah @ 25, a celebration of his life that we organized to mark what would have been his 25th birthday. We were expecting 35 of his friends and relatives for a gathering in our backyard, but we didn’t quite know what to expect. Would we feel up to welcoming people and setting the tone? Would people show up? Would they feel awkward or miserable, also not knowing what to expect? Would we be the only ones to speak during a time for sharing memories? It wasn’t a party and it wasn’t a memorial, so what was it?

It was a beautiful moment, focused on Noah. Everyone who planned to come was there, each with a little spark of Noah in them, keen to meet others who shared that spark and, I imagine, to find more peace with his death. They mingled and drank and browsed the memory table. The time for stories that I thought might fizzle in 10 minutes went on for an hour. My anecdotes of Noah were G-rated; others, not so much (some we were hearing for the first time). I mentioned the puzzle of Noah’s suicide and my husband noted the “barrier of sadness” that people had to get through to come to the gathering, much less speak publicly. I sat there teary and transfixed, grateful for each person who spoke and for each person who was present

Noah’s French family brought Champagne from Champagne and raised a toast to his memory; visiting with them in the weeks before the event made it seem less daunting and all the more special. Other friends made a touching toast to my husband and me for how we’ve moved through this loss. Noah’s friends whooped their way through a drinking game in the dark that they used to play with Noah; set up a studio in the living room to record a song for the occasion; told me how much they appreciated having a time and place to remember Noah again; cried a little; lingered till late.

I believe in ritual. I’ve felt its blessings and seen it work for others as a container for channeling emotion and experience. Though this wasn’t exactly ritual, I’m glad we created a communal space for remembering Noah and that our guests were willing to step into that space and improvise a moment together. The sharing of love and memories held Noah in the light and uplifted us all.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Susan,

    Thank you so much for sharing this time you had with those who loved Noah. It has touched Barbara and me to know that you and Bryan were surrounded by so many who cared for him and wanted to share with you their connection to him on his 25th birthday. Your words broke through my numbness and opened my heart to feel more deeply my loss of and longing for Jaimie. Thank you.

    Jim Wallace