Last month marked 11 long years since we lost my grandpa.
His birthday is coming up this month—two days before my grandma’s.
Over the years, my grief has morphed into both fond and somber memories. I would describe this feeling as a “sweet ache.” Bittersweet if you want to describe it plainly, I guess, but I wouldn’t say I’m bitter about his death. If you’ve ever missed something or someone who can never come back, but whose loss is somewhat natural, you understand what I’m talking about.
In any case, the grief isn’t as caustic as it would be for someone who has just recently lost a loved one—but it can still hit hard.
Watch this TikTok I recently came across where Mandy Patinkin—who played Inigo Montoya in “The Princess Bride”—responded to TikToker Alaska Webb’s question about a scene in the movie.
She starts off saying she’ll try to “do this without crying,” and if you’re anything like me, you won’t get through the video without crying either.
@mandypatinktok@alaska_webb thank you for finding us and sharing this! ✨ Sending big love and light to you and yours. More in comments. #grieving #cancer #dads♬ original sound – Mandy Patinkin and Kathryn G
With my grandpa’s death anniversary having just passed and as his birthday approaches, and after losing a pet, I thought of how Mandy offered to keep Alaska’s father in his prayers, and how I might continue to remember and celebrate those I’ve lost.
Here are a few ways to honor our dead:
1. Plant a garden in their memory. Whether it’s a small container planted with beautiful flowers, a space you dig out in the corner of your yard, or even a portion of your veggie garden, creating a space dedicated to the person you love can be a cathartic exercise and an opportunity to connect their memory with something beautiful. Additional idea: carve their name into some driftwood and nestle it into the space, too.
2. Perform acts of kindness on their behalf. Whatever act of kindness you choose, find a way to incorporate their memory into the deed. It can be as simple as including a small note (“in memory of my late Grandpa Art,” for example). Or, if it’s a physical act of kindness, simply think of a special memory of them during the act.
3. Cook all of their favorite foods, assigning a special memory to each dish. You can just call a dish theirs and think of them whenever you make it, or designate a day to make a feast with all of the foods they loved. Whenever I cook mashed potatoes, I remember how my grandpa used to be the designated potato peeler and how he’d talk about not wasting even a little bit of potato with the right technique and the right peeler. It still makes me laugh and think of him each time I see a potato.
4. Restore or thrift a piece of furniture that reminds you of them—something that is uniquely their style. For example, if you’re in need of a kitchen table, make it your mission to thrift one in a style they loved or had in their house, and then you could inscribe their name on the edge of it. (I suggest hiring a local pro rather than trying this yourself, unless you’re knowledgeable in that sort of thing.)
5. Create art out of old photos—just don’t use the originals. Have a few re-printed (or, for vintage photos, scan and print on photo paper at home) and create something in their memory. For example, you could transform your favorite photo of them into pop art and frame it to hang on your wall. Or transfer a photo onto ceramic tile to incorporate into your kitchen backsplash or to use as a coaster. Or create homemade gift tags for the holidays this year.