Since my Dad died suddenly in a car accident in 2014, I have gained a new appreciation for song lyrics and the way they capture the unpredictable emotions of grief. “Dad’s Old Number” and “You Should Be Here” by Cole Swindell are both very relatable. “My Old Man” and “Bittersweet” by Zac Brown Band are two of my other favorites. Then I heard “Glorious” by Macklemore and one particular lyric stuck with me. In the song he says, “I heard that you die twice. Once when they bury you in the grave and the second time is the last time somebody mentions your name.” In a society that so often avoids uncomfortable dialogue about death and grief, Macklemore sheds light on the importance of these conversations to keep alive the memories of the deceased. Family Lives On allows the memories of our loved ones to stay alive by putting Macklemore’s words into action.
I started volunteering with the organization in 2015 as a Tradition Coordinator. The young people involved with Family Lives On have all lost someone they loved. Each month, volunteers get to go shopping and put together a Tradition Package to send out in the mail. This could include sending football jerseys and tickets to teenagers who used to go to the stadium for games with their Dad. Others have received popcorn and blankets because they used to spend Saturday nights building forts with Mom. Some kids remember their parents by getting a restaurant gift card because each year they celebrated birthdays with a steak dinner.
Family Lives On has allowed me to not only help others through their grief process but also honor and celebrate my own Dad. I love when people ask me what I miss the most about my Dad. It provides me with an opportunity to say his name, retell old memories, burst out with laughter and cry healthy tears. It is not an easy question to answer because I miss so much about him. Being at the beach, watching football and Christmas Eve parties are now all a little less joyful without him. At the same time, I feel closer to him while reliving our favorite experiences. I am grateful that Family Lives On encourages grief immersion as opposed to avoidance because we would not be the people we are today without our deceased loved ones. While we might be unable to cook with them, go to Disney with them or hug them, it is important to remember that we love them.