When a loved one dies, the executor or whoever is in charge of the estate will often go through the person’s belongings and give specific items to others as a gift to remember them by. It is also normal for family members to want to keep an item of clothing or a piece of jewellery belonging to deceased. Sometimes this is reflected in a person’s will where they want specific item to be given to certain people. Sometimes it is an offering determined by family members wanting to give a keepsake to someone who was special to the deceased. You may hear the term used for this: Linking or Transitional Objects.
Keeping an item belonging to the deceased is not to be confused with creating a shrine. When a shrine is created, the family doesn’t change a thing belonging to the person who died. Years ago, I watched a documentary on television about the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed. Mohamed Al-Fayed, Dodi’s father, had maintained Dodi’s apartment in the exact state that it had been when he was alive. There was even a glass and opened magazine on the nightstand, although it had been years since Dodi was there. This is a shrine and as such, holds a person stuck in their sorrow. This is not the same as having a linking or transitional object belonging to someone who has died.
Prior to my mom’s death, she handpicked individual teacups and saucers to pass on to her granddaughters and methodically divided up her herd of ornamental elephants among her children. This was important to her and certainly these items hold great sentimental value for all of us – we wouldn’t think of parting with them. However, they have not held us back in working through our grief or moving forward in life. In fact, it is because of the ongoing comfort and memories these items give that we have been able to successfully integrate the loss of our mother into daily living.
When my husband died, it was equally important for me to give some of his special things to people who I knew would treasure them and who had a loving connection to him. Likewise, I wanted to be sure our daughters had something of him to spark memories and bring them comfort. Given he was a police officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; his red serge was visual statement of his career. When he died, he had three serge’s that were no longer in good repair and should have been turned it, but he had not got around to it. As much as I knew that I should turn them in after his death, I couldn’t. Instead, I tucked them away safely wondering what could I possibly do with them that would be meaningful for me and for my children. It was not until my eldest daughter was pregnant that the idea came to me. I decided to have replicate serges made to fit children… as in grandchildren. This would allow my grandchildren to have something belonging to grandpa. As well, I could see that having their photos taken in the serges would be a wonderful tribute to him.
The project took a life on of its own. As I said, the coats were not in good repair, missing buttons and all the adornments for the collars etc. This was solved by putting out a call to his fellow officers who worked for years with him. A collection arrived over the following weeks and it made the coats even more meaningful to know that those who worked with him have helped to create the jackets. The lining of the serges came from the lining used for bridesmaid dresses of my younger daughter’s wedding.
The photos here are of my grandsons after they were photographed in their mini-serges. The three pictures are proudly displayed together in our home.
Choosing a special item to link memories to a loved one can bring comfort to ease the transition of saying good-bye.