In the past few years, several members and attenders of our Quaker Meeting lost someone important to them – either through death or illness or into the obscurity of dementia. Others had moved, or lost or changed jobs, which entailed other losses.
So in January, Reno Friends came together for our first Remembrance Gathering. We picked a Saturday and invited everyone in the Meeting to come and share photos and stories about those they had lost, or changes in their lives. We also planned to start with a potluck lunch, and told people to bring their favorite comfort foods.
On the day of the gathering, several of us set up the Meeting House with a long table where we could all sit and talk, and another table to one side where we put candles and the photos of our loved ones. To start the gathering, we stood in a circle before the table with the candles, and held hands for a long moment of silence. Then we lit the tall central taper, and from that flame we lit small votives that we placed in front of the photographs.
Lunch was sumptuous and very comforting – warm soups, fresh bread, salads and many cookies. Once we had eaten, we took turns telling stories about the people we had lost. While this was a day to share our sadness, we also found ourselves sharing many vibrant and funny memories of those who had been so important to us. Several of us had lost a parent, some had lost siblings or friends, and one had lost her husband. Together we laughed and hugged and wiped away tears, as we held ourselves and those we missed in the Light.
One of our attenders brought a special offering to the gathering: Tree Cookies. No, these were not cookies shaped like trees; instead, they were thin slices of tree trunks from various types of trees, cut so that we could see the many concentric annual tree rings that told the stories of the trees. We could see where the trees had suffered drought, and years when they had enough water and nutrients to grow strong. Each Tree Cookie had a ribbon attached so it could be hung up as a Christmas Tree decoration or in a window. We were invited to take several home and decorate them with the names and/or photos of those we had lost.
By the end of the gathering we agreed we should make this a new Reno Friends tradition: to bring everyone together on a Saturday in January – over delicious and comforting food – to celebrate those we had lost and the ways our lives had been reshaped.
Wendy Swallow, Blog Editor, Reno Friends Meeting
The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting.