Rituals for Life, Love, and Loss

Robin Botie of Ithaca New York photoshops a ritual funeral for a dead bird.This sky lantern is for you, beautiful one, wherever you are. For your, (what do they call it?), birthday-in-heaven. Also, since the lanterns came only by the dozen, I’m mailing the other eleven to family and friends. So in this month before your birthday, you will get twelve lantern-launching ceremonies. If I could send you a dozen roses or a trillion chocolate Kit-Kat bars, I would. I love you. Lots. I didn’t really need to write this on the lantern; I’d already said it, in our driveway under an almost-full moon, to my daughter who died.

Long ago, the first rituals I created were funerals for dead birds. The neighborhood kids shared solemn words as we wrapped small creatures in Kleenex, with shriveled dandelions and daisies, and buried them in my mother’s rock garden. Later I created ceremonies, mostly around food, to acknowledge monumental changes in my life. We’re not talking séances or anything strange here. Rituals are simply small acts done to honor someone or recognize some event. We do rituals all the time. Like lighting candles on a cake and singing happy birthday. Like raising the flag. Planting a tree after a birth or a death. Clinking our glasses to toast someone.

For some reason, my most recent rituals almost always involve sending things UP. When my father died we gave his ashes to a friend, who had a small airplane, to toss them out over the Long Island Sound. For my daughter, we let loose a bunch of homing pigeons. Over the last five years, I’ve released balloons and butterflies for her, blown bubbles off high cliffs into the wind, read poems to the sun, and sang to the moon. Why, I wonder, do I keep looking UP for my daughter even though I found a page of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself among her things, the part where he wrote, “If you want me again, look for me under your boot-soles”?

I’ll plant daisies, or roses, too, I tell her. It all helps. Rituals make me feel closer to my daughter. More connected. And all the singing, the lanterns, the birds, and butterflies I send UP – in the process, I’m lifting myself as well.

 

What other rituals might I do for the upcoming birthday? Or for the coming of spring and summer?

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8 thoughts on “Rituals for Life, Love, and Loss

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    Thank you for taking me along with you, Robin. You know how I delight in ritual, especially the kind you are creating for yourself. How could lighting a candle make so much difference? But it does. Or offering a flower or cooking something they loved or saying their name. It must knock your socks off when you listen and watch Marika singing her song.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Well you ARE my queen of ritual-making, Elaine. Whether we like it or not, whenever I’m considering rituals, or even just hearing the word, YOU pop into my thoughts.
      Now that you’ve mentioned offering flowers and cooking something they loved, I must consider those as well for the big day. But watching the video? I don’t know if I can think of that as a ritual. It’s more like doing something for myself, for my desperation to see and hear her again, rather than something I do FOR HER. Even though I benefit from these rituals, they are driven by a need to do something for her. Like the skylanterns – OMG I’m terrified of fire and lighting things but I’ll do it since it’s for Marika.
      But yes, when I watch that video, it “knocks my socks off.”

      Reply
  2. Suzanne

    So glad you found the sky lanterns inspiring. Little daily rituals also make us remember, even in the midst of being busy. I have incorporated my dead son’s name into most of my passwords, so I think of him whenever I log onto my computer or make a transaction. It helps keep him near me in a small way. Keep up the ritual-making!

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Oooops! We may both need to change our precious passwords now, Suzanne. As Marika would say, “Mom. You just exposed yourself all over the internet.” I know what you mean though. Every day. Thank you!

      Reply
  3. Annette Corth

    Hello Robin,

    Another wonderful tribute to Marika and to yourself. I especially liked the image, beautiful and striking. See you later. Love, Annette

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I’m so glad you liked that picture, Annette. Because I wasn’t sure about using the shot of the dead bird. I found it to be beautiful. Sad too. And one friend already complained about there being a dead bird in the picture. But hopefully there was enough other stuff to consider in the picture so that one could look in any other corner of the illustration and find something beautiful. So thank you for finding that. I imagine the bird was the “striking” part. Cheers!

      Reply
  4. Lucy Bergström

    Hi Robin,
    Rituals are so important. In most cultures, there are lots of them, for every occasion. In the US, because of the melting pot, most of them got thrown out or lost by the wayside. The ones you have adopted to get closer to Marika are wonderful. Here’s an idea for one more: You and Greg could go to the top of Buttermilk Falls, Upper Buttermilk, and release one or more colored balls into the water. Then drive down to the bottom and wait for the balls to come over the big falls and then snag them from the pool. They represent Marika’s journey through the dangerous rapids of illness and into the calmness of the pool below the falls, her bliss.
    Let’s talk on our birthday. Love, Lucy

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Hi Lucy. I’m loving your idea but am having a difficult time picturing it. I can see the red, yellow and blue balls rushing in the turgid waters of the falls. The parks are a bit flooded this time of the year but the barricaded pools and paths are not impermeable. But getting Greg out to one of the parks, where they do not offer workout equipment, exquisite food and wine, or hair-cutting services (the only things Greg leaves the house for when he’s not working), would be more challenging than finding an agent for my manuscript. I think I will go hiking in a park with falls on Marika’s birthday. But I’ll probably blow bubbles off the cliffs because I don’t trust that I’d be able to find and retrieve those red, yellow and blue balls. And with my luck I’d get fined for littering. Thank you for the image though of driving through the rushing waters with Greg in his shiny black revved-up Challenger filled with colored balls.

      Reply

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