Many of the important keepsakes on my altar stay the same; an old-timey photo we took together in Fort Worth a few months before his accident, his wrist watch and pocket knife – both of which he was never without, his pilot’s license, a few of his model helicopters, a rose from the last anniversary bouquet he gave me. Over the past year, I’ve slowly started adding things to it too, particularly when I go on trips. This has become one of the things I enjoy most about this alter… using it as part of other memorial activities that I do.
He loved the outdoors, so I’ve started bringing back small stones from various national and state parks I visit. (The stack of red rocks is from a visit to the Grand Canyon last fall, a trip we’d planned to take together but didn’t get to.) Another thing that I’ve enjoyed is the pressed pennies you can get in just about any city now a-days. I’ve always collected these, and before he died we used to collect them together, so now when I go to new cities, I still get them and bring them and keep them in his space. And then there’s the awesomely creepy skeleton version of us I purchased at a Dia de los Muertos shop in San Antonio near where I live (while not for everyone, he would have appreciated the dark humor of this!).
Adding to his altar from all of my adventures helps me to keep him included in my life in a positive way and not to feel as if I am leaving him behind or not allowing myself to get out and live. I may not be able to buy him a cool tourist shirt that he can wear, but I can still celebrate the idea of bringing him something back from my travels and give myself permission to enjoy letting him be a part of my life still.
These active memorials and altars allow me to use my creativity and give me some way to look forward to connecting with him no matter where I am. They also help to remind me that it’s okay – in fact beautiful – to let him still come along with me on my journeys and adventures in spirit.
For Your Journey: Do you have an altar up for a loved one, or a special active memorial that you do? If not, what might be some creative ways that you can give yourself permission to still give your love to that person, even though they are no longer physically here with you?