But when you’re gone

Who remembers your name?

Who keeps your flame?

Who tells your story? 

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton


The mention of our loved one’s name often brings silence. A change of topic. Or worse, a misguided suggestion that it is time to move on.

Grief can be isolating and so very lonely. This does not mean that grief should not be shared. That stories should not be told. That loved ones names must go unspoken. 

Speak their name. Keep their flame. Tell their stories.

Storytelling is a sacred part of our lives. We tell stories to honor, to teach, to bond, to remember. Stories evoke laughter, tears, comfort, inspiration and remembrance. Stories shared are powerful connectors from one generation to the next. 

Stories affirm who we are, where we come from, our roots. The stories of our lives, of our loved ones, are deeply important and must be told. 

So much can be learned about values, ritual, resilience and traditions through the stories we tell. 

I tell stories of my Mom’s humor. How she relied on humor to carry on. To live through unimaginable grief and hardship. She used humor to connect with others. To bring light to darkness. Sharing her story reminds me to accept and even embrace duality. To remember that we can laugh even as our hearts break. That there is humor even during the worst of times. That we can feel and live forward with both sorrow and joy.

I tell stories of my father in law’s deep reverence for family. How his eyes filled with tears when surrounded by his children and grandchildren. His overwhelming love for family is a story that must be shared. Sharing this memory with our children reminds them of his love. Someday when their eyes fill with tears of love and gratitude as they sit with their children and grandchildren they will remember and tell his story .

I tell stories of my friend Kim and how she loved nothing more than a house or van full of kids. She was the first to volunteer, to drive carpool (often both ways), to bring snacks, to host. The value of being present with our children, the knowing that time is fleeting and life unpredictable, that there is truly nothing better than being a fly on the wall as our kids and their friends talk in the back seat, at the kitchen table, or even at 2am. Kim took nothing for granted. Sharing her story reminds me to be present, to be available, to embrace even the most mundane moments as they are often where memories are made.

I tell stories of Maggie who at 80 would sit on the ground in blue jeans, wholehearted and completely open, sharing stories of gardening, of how our souls continue long after we are physically gone, of how adding fresh raspberries alongside salmon or quiche makes it much more special being served, that marriage is never 50/50 so you must always learn to care for yourself while loving another. She inspired what brings me peace. Through her I learned to find solace in nature, restoration in self-care and comfort in creating a peaceful home and preparing a beautiful meal. She taught me to find respite in solitude and hope in butterflies. Telling her story solidifies my joy in the simple things.

The stories of traditions passed down from generation to generation serve as a guide to how we share, love and connect with each other during good times and bad. They influence how we celebrate holidays and share milestones.

My children know the joy in fall leaves, spring flowers and the first snowfall. They appreciate games played and laughter shared. They recognize the necessity of tolerance, of never giving up, of not letting others define or limit you, of hard work, of living life with integrity and compassion for others. They understand why we attend funerals, go to recitals, travel for milestone celebrations. They do because of the stories shared. Because of the names spoken. They know and they understand because we remember, honor and share the stories of our loved ones, outloud and often.

They are gone. Yet, their names are remembered, their flame kept and their stories told.