Today is Memorial Day 2021. It is a very interesting holiday in that we aren't celebrating a victory or any singular event. It started as Decoration Day, in which we honored fallen soldiers from the Civil War. Eventually it changed to be known as Memorial Day but holds the same purpose. Many American families use this to go visit gravesites to "decorate" them with flowers, photos and memorabilia.
Most people don't spend enough time dealing with the inevitable - our own mortality. We are all going to die, so it is neither a blessing or a curse. If is fact - of life. How many of you have spent any time thinking about the memorial you will have when you die?
As witnessed by the cemeteries around our country, it is obvious that most people don't plan ahead for this end of life event. Most memorial markers are simple plaques with person's name, birth date and the day they passed. Some are a little more elaborate, but obviously were picked out of a catalog at a funeral home and customized with the personal details.
I admit that even though I knew my wife had terminal cancer, I was also guilty of having never giving any thought in advance about what to do regarding her memorial headstone. When we went to the funeral home to make her final arrangements, I realized immediately that there was no way I was going to buy a catalog memorial for such a special person!
I tried to hire several local artists to help come up with something unique and special but nothing seemed appropriate. I wanted something that elegantly told her life's story and had some symbolism - not just an engraved rock.
I started working on a theme. One thing she enjoyed was traveling, especially to the ocean. When ever we were close to a lighthouse, we would go visit and climb it if allowed. Her favorite lighthouse was in St. Augustine, Florida. I found a place that sold replicas that I thought about using for the memorial.
When it arrived, I loved it, but thought I still needed to do more. Another thing my wife loved was hiking up to the cross at Table Rock above Boise. She would sit and overlooking the valley below and pray. The night before she went in for surgery, she wanted to go up there, so we did. A year later, we went up to celebrate with her and many friends. The night she passed, we went back again to pay tribute. When I learned that the quarry at Table Rock was owned by Gerhard Barbonus Landscaping, I reached out to them to see if they could duplicate the lighthouse out of the sandstone from that quarry and they said they would be honored to.
I still needed to work on the base as well to bring out the symbolism and meaning. My wife used to say if she ever got a tattoo, it would be a butterfly. When she started radiation treatments for her cancer 12 years ago, they gave her three small tattoo markers to triangulate the radiation. We affectionately called those her butterfly poop tattoo. Since a butterfly is a metaphor of spiritual rebirth, hope and change; I knew I found my first symbol. She also was always mesmerized by dragonflies and had some custom painted dragonfly sweaters and jewelry. When I learned that they were also a symbol of change, transformation and self realization and according to some cultures, teach us to rejoice and have faith even amidst difficulties, I knew I had found symbol #2.
Then, since the memorial headstone will be for me too some day, I had pick something for myself. We have had the opportunity to interact with a dolphin in Mexico; we kayaked with them in Florida; and even had a dolphin painting encounter in Florida; so a dolphin would be #3.
I did some research and found that Rockitecture, LLC worked a lot with Gerhard Barbonus Landscaping and they could do the custom engraving for me. I provided the graphics and let them do their job.
Then, I had to coordinate with Travis, who works with Dry Creek Cemetery, about how we time everything to have the grounds prepped, the memorial delivered, and then set in concrete. Our plot was even selected with a purpose. It is on the hillside above the Optimist Football Fields where our boys used to compete. The section of the cemetery is called "The Willows" for the willow trees in that area. We had a large willow in our back yard so that fit well too. The exact location has an unobstructed view of the flag at the Veteran's Cemetery above it.
Finally, everything came together in a monument that is worthy to stand sentinel over my wife (and someday myself). The solar lighthouse will serve as a guide into the unknown that still lies ahead. It has an LED bulb so it doesn't draw much power and stays lit throughout the night to help guard against darkness. It stands nearly 6'6" because you should look up to a lighthouse, not down to it.
I am extremely pleased at how it turned out! Thanks to everyone that helped create such a beautiful work of art to memorialize my wife's life!