After taking the EOL Doula course at Douglas College I felt called to create an intimate remembrance ceremony for my mother-in-law, Jacky, who lost a best friend during COVID times. Due to the lack of visitation, support, physical touch, and ceremony that was allowed at that time, Jacky wasn’t afforded the opportunity to openly grieve with her family or friends, nor was she able to honour the loss of her friend in a way that felt true to her.
Before I found Be Ceremonial, my idea of ritual and ceremony was making my coffee in the morning. I was a total newbie, but Be Ceremonial turned me into a confident ceremonialist. Using their app, I was able to easily choose rituals that held the essence of their friendship and honoured her loss. The app gave me the structure, language, cadence, and confidence I needed to host this important ceremony.
To set the scene, the two of us went snowshoeing in Strathcona Provincial Park. The sky was bright blue and the sun was warm on our faces. We found a quiet spot just off the trail to set up for the ceremony. I laid out my trusty wool blanket and ritual supplies and we were graced by a handful of the cutest Whiskey Jacks.
A week earlier, I had sent Jacky the first two rituals for her to do on her own in preparation for our ceremony. They included letter writing (and burning) and finding a story object. I asked her to write a letter to her dear friend, expressing anything she felt called to share. She wrote five pages. I then instructed her to burn the letter and save the ashes.
I also asked her to select a piece of jewelry that reminded her of her dear friend and to bring it to our ceremony (they met while working at a jewelry store and both had a passion for the finer things in life).
Jacky loved these rituals. The letter writing was so cathartic; she had many emotions come up during the process and was able to let them wash over her as she wrote and wrote. Burning the letter provided a release that she desperately needed. Choosing the jewelry was so much fun, she said. She laid out all her pieces and chose very carefully and with intention.
During the ceremony, we opened with an intention I asked her to create, distilling it down to one word. We moved into the opening breath ritual, taking three breaths: one breath for what was, one for what is, and one for what will be.
We moved on to the story object ritual. I had her hold the piece of jewelry she selected and tell me the story behind it. She beamed as she told me the story, then she put the earrings on. I instructed her to wear these earrings anytime she felt called to honour her friend. Infusing this intention into a piece of jewelry gave her something tangible that she could reach for when the need to feel close arose.
The next ritual was the scattering of the ashes from the burnt letter. I asked her to take a few moments to reflect on the letter-writing experience, releasing what no longer served her, and holding onto the memories that do. As she spread the ashes, I read the poem, “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” by Mary Elizabeth Frye.
This is where the magic happened. In the poem, she speaks of the diamond glint on snow, and the quiet rush of birds, and as I recited those lines, the snow sparkled like diamonds, and we were again graced with a rush of little Whiskey Jacks. Jacky was giddy with excitement over the thought that her dear friend was present with us. Once the ashes were released and the poem read, we moved to the crossing the threshold ritual. This was a powerful one.
We set up a threshold, a line in the diamond-glinted snow, and before she stepped over it, I asked her to consider the journeys they have both been on to get to this point. As she took the step, I instructed her to take a moment to acknowledge what she was stepping into; no longer consumed by what was lost, but rather what she had gained. I reminded her that she was now walking forward carrying her friends’ spirit with her, leaving behind all that no longer served her.
She wept as she let go of the pain she had been carrying. As she crossed the threshold, I could see a lightness come over her face. I could sense that her perspective had shifted. There is so much power in owning and embracing the comfort that comes with letting go of the physical body, while remaining connected to the spirit. This was the missing link for Jack – the connection to the soul after death had not been made, until now.
We closed the ceremony with touch. As I clasped her hands in mine, I gave her time to reflect on the intention she set at the beginning of the ceremony. I reminded her of her strength and grace, and ability to face all that life has to offer with an open heart. We hugged for a long time, and she shared a few more thoughts.
We ended the ceremony with a picnic lunch, cue the Whiskey Jacks! And then we walked back down the trail in silence as we reflected on our experience together.
It was such a gift to be able to provide this time and space for Jacky to grieve and move through the emotions of letting go, while still holding on. I could not have done this without the guidance of Be Ceremonial, and I am so thankful for this beautiful resource.