Remembering Sebastian with Joy:
Rituals of Remembrance
by Ellen Gray

It's been more than three years since my son Sebastian died.

We speak of him regularly, and remember him actively.  I want Sebastian to be remembered with joy, especially by his two big brothers.

In the early months, finding ways to actively remember and mourn Sebastian helped me to get through the days.  Later, these rituals and traditions became ways to celebrate his life and include him in our ongoing family life.  We have lots of family rituals that help in our ongoing healing, and that maintain his place as an important member of our family.

Remembering through Rituals

These are just a few of the rituals we have developed over the years since Sebastian's death. 

One of the very first things we did in the days and weeks after Sebastian's death was to make a list of our "Sebastian memories."  Later on, I bought a beautiful blank book, and I took each memory from our list and wrote it out as a story.  As I wrote, I felt that I was spending time with Sebastian.  Putting the memories on paper freed me of an obsessive need to keep every memory in my mind.  And now we have a wonderful record of the stories of his life.

We also mounted a candleholder on our wall, and kept a candle burning in memory of Sebastian.

For the first year, I wore a photo button with Sebastian's picture on it.  On the one-year anniversary of his death, I stopped.  Now I wear a dog tag with his photo, tucked inside my shirt.

Together we decorated a cardboard box in which to store Sebastian's toys, books, special clothing and mementos.  When the box began to get ragged, we bought a comfy chair with storage in its base.  Now Sebastian's things are in "Sebastian's chair," close at hand, but safely and privately stored away.

We planted a tree in our front yard.  Whenever we go on a trip or an adventure, we bring back a stone or a shell for Sebastian and place it under his tree.

Our Family Celebrating Sebastian

Since Sebastian died just two weeks before Christmas, December is especially hard.  We've found a number of ways to make it easier.  We set up the tiny tree that graced Sebastian's ICU room.  We buy a new ornament every year for Sebastian and put it on his tree.  We fill a Christmas hamper for a needy family, and always request a family with a little boy Sebastian's age.  We have fun choosing special gifts for the little guy.

Each year, we spend Sebastian's birthday at a nearby hot springs resort.  I buy and wrap presents, a game and a new chapter book that we'll all enjoy.  We spend the day soaking in the pools, opening the presents, going out for a special dinner, walking on the shore, and sharing memories about Sebastian.  We look at his photo album, listen to his music, and eat the snacks that remind us of him.  We take lots of pictures.  When we return home, the photos go in a special album of Sebastian's birthdays. After we have read and enjoyed the book, it goes on a shelf of Sebastian's books.  After we've played the game, it is donated to the local toy library.

On Valentine's Day, my husband always gets up early and sneaks out to buy four pots of bulbs:  one for me, and one for each of the three boys.  On Mother's Day, the flowers are signed from all three boys.  On Halloween, we carve three jack-o-lanterns:  one for Isaac, one for Ronan, and one for Sebastian.

Visiting the Hot Springs for Sebastian's Birthday

Many family friends gave us money in honor of Sebastian.  We decided to use this money to buy children's books about grief and loss, and donate them to our local library.  I researched books online, requested them through interlibrary loan, and read them to the boys.  This led to discussions that were healthy for all of us.  If I'd just said "Let's read another book about grief!" they would have refused!  If we liked a book, we ordered a copy.  The library inscribed these with a special sticker:  "In loving memory of Sebastian Robert Gray."  We still like to see Sebastian's books when we visit the library.

We also organize and run a children's fishpond at our annual Canada Day celebration, with the proceeds going to a local charity that helped us during Sebastian's illness.  The fishpond is called "Sebastian's pond."  We are all proud to be part of this.  I like raising money for a good cause, but most of all, I like seeing the joyful faces of all the children as they retrieve their prizes and knowing that it is all because of Sebastian.

Keeping His Memory Alive

I have always wanted Sebastian to be remembered with joy, both by our community and most importantly, by his family.  These little rituals keep his memory alive every day.

Remembering Sebastian and his Eeyore

Being Sebastian's mom was--and is--an enormous gift.  He came here with lessons to teach, and the world is a better place because he was here.  My journey has been harder than I could have imagined, and yet filled with many blessings and much joy.  I am immensely grateful for having had Sebastian in my life, and I want to remember and honor him each and every day.

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 Author:  Ellen Gray
 Date Uploaded:   6/14/2010