How Do I Honor My Parents’ Love?

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Dear Meredith,

Here’s something a little different: A question about love after death. My parents got married in the 50s, and just short of 30 years later, my father suffered the mother of all midlife crises, divorced my mother, and married someone else. Once he freed himself from that unfortunate relationship, he confided in me, “If I thought I had a chance, I’d court your mother all over again.” He tried for a number of years, but my mother had been deeply hurt and would have none of it. In time, however, she acquiesced to a friendship. They went to dinner and to the movies, and sat together at family functions. Over time, it happened: They fell back in love, to everyone’s delight. We’d catch them kissing when they thought nobody was around.

They considered getting remarried, but by this point, they were in their 80s. Their financial, housing, and health situations were complicated. So we had a private, (non-legal) ceremony in which they renewed their vows with the family present. For the next ten years, they called each other “husband” and “wife,” even though they lived separately. Sadly, my mother passed away recently. And here is my problem: Soon, my mother will be buried in the family plot, according to her wishes. (Her family.) Before the divorce, the understanding was that both of my parents would be buried there together. But in the years since, that spot was promised to a different relative. It’s understandable and cannot be undone. But my dad doesn’t know this. Do you have any creative ideas of how I can honor them together as a loving, committed couple, even though they will need to be laid to rest in different places? Thanks so much.

– Longing for Mom & Dad to Be Together


First of all, sorry about your mom.

People will say this isn’t a Love Letters question, and yes, it is a bit different. But I’m posting it because the story of what happened with your parents – their nonlinear journey as a couple – is a good one, and I love tales where people fall for each other again, even after causing each other pain. There’s a lot of romance and forgiveness in this letter. Also, the kissing.

I happen to believe that memorials, grave sites, etc., are for the living. If you believe that too, it means you can choose a spot – maybe somewhere they were caught kissing – and honor them there. Or maybe it’s about finding (or making) a piece of art that speaks to who they were and will forever be as a couple. Honestly, this letter does some memorializing.

My mom is scattered in different places – at her request – but she also lives in what I hang on my walls, the music I hear, and in this column, which she used to read every day. (Sorry to get all weepy here. Her death anniversary, which I normally don’t care about much, falls on Mother’s Day this year. Thanks, calendar!) But with every letter, I remember her and think of what she’d say. I remember her relationships. I play another song.

The point is, honor your parents with your own ritual. It doesn’t have to be about location, but if it is, pick a place you can visit easily. If you continue to tell their love story, it sticks around forever.

– Meredith

Readers? Not to get bleak here, but do you talk to your partner about where you’ll wind up after death? Does everyone assume they’ll be put together at the end? Or does it feel right to have different plans? What about your parents?

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