Giving Gifts to the Dead

Giving gifts to the dead, Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a new dress for her daughter who died.It’s birthday time again—for my daughter—who’s been gone physically for eight years now. Happy Heavenly Birthday to Marika, some people will say. I love it when she gets birthday greetings; it warms my heart even after all this time. Bereaved parents, other than getting their beloved deceased ones back, just want their children to be remembered. And often, on birthdays, they feel compelled to do or get something ‘for’ their beloved. So, as our big day approaches, in my resolution to keep Marika close and include her in my world, I am considering the various options for giving her a present.

Maybe you’re thinking, I’m taking this a little too far. But I did not invent this idea of gifting the dead, myself. Since the Neanderthals, people have been burying their dead with all kinds of offerings. And today, Cambodians, Mexicans, Chinese … people all over the world have holidays where they leave flowers as well as food and drink at the burial grounds of their ancestors and other deceased loved ones. Go visit any cemetery to see lovingly placed teddy bears, toy cars, … balloons. It is a positive coping strategy for mourners. The folks at The Conversation call it “restorative giving,” recognizing that giving gifts to the dead is one way to deal with the pain of loss while maintaining ties with a deceased loved one.

If there’s no grave, a griever who wants to gift the dead has to be more inventive. Some possibilities for making a meaningful and beneficial contribution of some sort that day: I could buy a gift Marika would have liked and, with the help of a local pastor, I could give it to some girl from a needy family. Or I might leave a pretty bracelet in Marika’s favorite park for some lucky person to discover. I could make a donation to a charitable organization in her name. Maybe I’ll plant a rosebush. Maybe I’ll make a small campfire in the yard and invite a couple of old friends over for s’mores. Or I could bake (or fetch) a cherry pie and do a ritual with peach tea by candlelight, reading a special poem aloud.

And, in addition, because Marika opened the doors to social media, technology, and photography to me, I will take this opportunity to Photoshop a new dress for the girl who, even dead, still changes my life every day.

 

What do you do to honor a deceased loved one on a birthday?

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Giving Gifts to the Dead

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    I love it, Robin. I wonder which thing you’ll choose. And I wonder about which day is Marika’s birthday so, if it isn’t already past, I can remember it, too, and give something somewhere in her name. Vic’s birthday is a time of quiet missing him. His death day in early June is a time to pick flowers and create a ritual in the woods. It’s a time to remember the Green Man and all the support I receive in this life.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Oh, the Green Man. I get a wonderful picture in my mind of Vic as the Green Man whenever it comes up. You must have done a memorable photo. Marika’s birthday was on May 3rd. Unfortunately a good friend, a writer friend died that morning so I was a bit distracted. But I gifted two girls things Marika would have liked, and I ate sushi for lunch in one of Marika’s fave restaurants, I drank peach tea over candlelight with a poem, did all the things (almost) I said I would, and then got to spend time with my son toasting Marika and telling stories. I tend to exhaust myself trying to do as much as I can rather than quiet introspection. Probably drives people around me nuts. But I do get my fill of my daughter that way and it’s kinda like I used to go about her birthday when she was alive. Cheers, Elaine.

      Reply
  2. Lynne Taetzsch

    What a beautiful idea, Robin! I wouldn’t have thought to do anything like that before I read your piece. Happy Birthday, Marika!

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank you, Lynne. Well, you have my blessing to do anything you can come up with when it comes to birthdays. We have to allow ourselves a lot of leeway when it comes to these holidays and anniversaries. Now that you’ve read my piece and hopefully been inspired – I wonder what amazing things you’ll come up with on your own.

      Reply
  3. Sandy Vehrencamp

    Lovely piece, Robin. I agree with you, we do the same on Katrina’s birthday. Remembering is good. Beautiful photo of Marika, nicely rendered, and full of love.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank you, Sandy. I’m missing you. Cannot believe how many memorials and funerals and readings about dying I’ve attended in the last weeks. And more coming up this week. Let’s do lunch when all this settles please.

      Reply

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