Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Plaques and Pavers: Memorializing Love Beyond a Grave Marker

A bench plaque at a community park
 in Tucson, Arizona. Author image
You've seen them and you may have walked on them:  memorial plaques and paver bricks are extremely popular tributes! Typically, their purchase is a contribution to the community or a nonprofit organization. Yes, many plaques and pavers can be celebratory, philanthropic, and even not of a memorial nature, but with greater frequency, sending funeral flowers is not an option.

For example, when a "viewing" (a funeral home visitation with the body in a casket) does not occur, there may or may not be an appropriate occasion for flowers. Charitable memorial designations are common, but the marriage of a memorial tribute with a lasting presence (beyond a cemetery grave marker) is comforting, practical, and often renders great benefit to others.

I recently met Jeanne when she was in Tucson to scatter her sister's ashes in the mountains. Her sister, Suzanne, had been a long time Tucsonian and member of the Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists.
Suzanne contributed countless hours educating classroom groups about desert animals and ecology. Jeanne told me that Suzanne had lived other places, but loved the desert. During her illness, the family had arranged for Suzanne to be named on a plaque of Sabino Canyon supporters. It was a special day, shortly before her death, when Suzanne stood beside the tile which declares her work as "A Guide to Scenic Splendor."
The plaque honoring supporters. Author image

Suzanne's heart lives on in the desert. Author image

The Naturalist group also sponsors a memorial garden where rustic, inscribed stones bear the names of deceased volunteers (pictured below.) For many, having a place to visit and feel close to their departed loved one, is important--and it doesn't need to be a cemetery! In fact, there is comfort in knowing that a modest donation for the purchase of a plaque or paver, continued a mission or project that gave meaning to the loved one's life.  Jeanne and her family beamed with a peaceful joy in the presence of Suzanne's legacy.

How can you memorialize a loved one in a similar way?
If there is a charitable designation made, don't just stuff a check in an envelope. Call the organization and ask about their enduring opportunities. Consider exploring:
  • the hospice that assisted the family; they may have a patio of inscribed pavers.
  • a service organization that the family supports; they may have benches or furnishings that can be "named."
  • a comment of caring once expressed by the deceased; "I love birds" could point to a memorial gift with the Audubon Society, or your local bird and wildlife conservation nonprofit may invite funding for fixtures in a local sancuary. Ask! 
Some view memorial plaques and pavers as a final gift.
The beauty of the gesture is that its legacy is shared by so many, for many years to come.

This may also be a way to mark an anniversary of death.
Don't feel that you have to immediately identify and arrange a plaque or paver. There is so much going on in the weeks and months after a death. Why not consider this for an anniversary year?

Thank you for caring! 

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