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Giving thanks: Rituals for remembering

Appreciate loved ones and share with them your love while they are alive

Alicia W. Stewart | 11/27/2013, 10:16 a.m.
One day after Thanksgiving last year, my mother, brother, cousin and I gathered in my 87-year-old grandmother's room at the ...
CNN's Alicia Stewart and her family pose for a photo earlier this year. Alicia Stewart/CNN

Let loved ones get to know you

What's great about family is that they know you. What's frustrating about family is that they assume they know everything about you. It is the inevitable tension that comes with being known but still yearning to be discovered.

In the past few years, our family added a new question to the Thanksgiving discussion: What's on your bucket list?

My very grounded and sensible brother surprised us all when he shared that he wanted to skydive.

Another mentioned a dream to write books, though they had worked in social work their entire life.

The lovely surprise about this question is the novel things learned about those that are familiar: an opportunity to get to know who we think we know best all over again.

Share how you want to be remembered

After the loss of our grandmother, this ritual will resonate even more this year: we share how we would like to be remembered.

Perhaps because how we perceive ourselves can be different than how others do, this tends to be the most revealing and a window to how we might experience one another.

"Where we aim isn't where we always hit," my mother likes to say. Thus, those "encouraging" reminders may be taken as nagging. "Keeping it real" truth-telling can be experienced as criticism. Displays of affection can be seen as smothering. When all along, it might be that the intention was in the right place and simply misinterpreted.

When we are gone, loved ones can only relive encounters with us via their memories. It can be hard to put into words, but sharing how you want to be remembered -- and living it -- is a gift to loved ones in the time we have together now.

How would you like to be remembered?

"As a family man," my dad shared.

Family, dear friends and cherished memories are what I will be remembering at Thanksgiving this year -- and what I hope to not soon forget.