Celebrations of Life

Robin Botie of ithaca, New York, photographs peaches before going to various friends to help make a peach pie in a celebration of life.A good friend of mine decided to have a celebration of her life before her death. “So I can be there to hear all those great things people will say about me,” she told me, during the planning stages. Feeling ancient and ailing, she mentioned her hopes of still being alive for the big event. And when the evening of the party arrived my friend was indeed still ticking, scooting back and forth among the guests in her motorized wheelchair, sharing her poetry and photos, and sampling the double-chocolate chip cookies.

Being a bereaved mother, I thought I knew all about celebrations of life, funerals, and memorials. Four months after my daughter’s death, after family and friends had time to put together slideshows and videos, we gathered to honor the memory of Marika, to tell the story of her brief life, and acknowledge her death with the release of doves and blue balloons over Cayuga Lake. It was a comfort to see how much she was loved. I wish she could have experienced it.

Rejoicing in a person’s life while they are still around seems to be a growing trend. Beyond the time for big birthdays and other celebrations marking milestones, those whose lives are nearing the end are now often organizing living funerals. Swan songs. Their party of a lifetime. For the ones they shared their time on this planet with. It makes them think in terms of gratefulness. It may even help to calm anxieties about dying.

To me, still lively and hoping to be hiking at one hundred, a celebration of life means a daily reveling in who and what surrounds me.

“Please come over and get some peaches. We are inundated,” a couple of hiking friends texted me, the morning after my ailing friend’s life celebration. Riotous red and yellow fruit was all over the kitchen when I arrived to find the smiling couple sitting together, slicing piles of peaches. “Take as many as you like,” they said. I filled my bowl with enough fruit for two small pies, and then went jaunting all over the countryside visiting various friends to gather inspiration or ingredients, make the dough and do the baking. And then share. This was a veritable celebration of the life I love.


If you were to design your own celebration of life, to be held before your death, what would you include?



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3 thoughts on “Celebrations of Life

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    That’s a beautiful way to celebrate life, Robin. Peaches and peach pie. When Vic was just diagnosed with incurable cancer, we went to a celebration of life with a friend who was dying of cancer. The meeting between the two men–Vic kneeling before his friend and the friend in a wheelchair–was one of the most poignant inner snapshots of my life. I didn’t carry a camera (or a cellphone) then. I was happy for my friend as everyone expressed love and appreciation for him. He’d been sick for many years and seemed ready to give up the fight. Vic never gave up the fight until the last few days, but teaching with the Dalai Lama was his supreme celebration, just 6 weeks before his death. With Virginia, her 100th birthday was the last big celebration and she was regal and had a wonderful time (despite forgetting it had happened the next day). I’m glad I made that happen for her. She enjoyed hearing about it over and over.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yeah, Elaine. Those celebrations of life before it’s over are bittersweet. Maybe even more so than after the death of the one we love. At a memorial, we wish our beloved one could see all the love. At these live life celebrations, we are well aware of what’s coming and express our feelings, hopefully freely. I don’t know. Seems one can’t have too many parties. Before and after death – both. So glad to hear about Virginia’s last big celebration. I’m glad you could do that too. And I understand perfectly about Vic’s supreme moment of time. How amazing that must have been.

  2. Lynne Taetzsch

    Peach pie! My favorite. I bought some peaches this past weekend at the farmer’s market–hope to make that pie when they ripen. Glad to see you celebrating life, Robin!


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