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Remembering Our Founding Fathers: Alexander Hamilton

By Current Events, Exclude from Top Posts

Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” -Alexander Hamilton

(Photo: Portrait of Alexander Hamilton)

The Fourth of July marks a great and long-remembered day in American history. It was on July 4th in 1776 that the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain and became an independent nation. In 1870, Independence Day became a federal holiday, though it wasn’t until 1938 that it became a paid federal holiday.

Our founding fathers consist of seven influential men. They are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton. While each of these men had faults and made mistakes, together they created our nation and continue to be remembered for their patriotism and courage.

In honor of Independence Day, let’s reflect on one of our founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton: his life, his legacy, and the ways we have remembered and memorialized him.

Biography

Born in the British West Indies in January 1755 or 1757, Alexander Hamilton was the illegitimate son of Rachel Lavien and James Hamilton. When he was 11, Hamilton’s father deserted the family, and not long after, his mother died.

For a time, he worked as an accounting clerk, where he first learned about international commerce. With his employer’s help, Hamilton went to America to pursue an education. He arrived in America in 1773. Soon after, Hamilton took up the colonials’ cause.

By 1777, he became George Washington’s assistant and trusted advisor. For the next five years, Hamilton worked closely with Washington. Also during this time, Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler, with whom he would have eight children.

(Photo: George Washington, whom Hamilton served under)

Following the Treaty of Paris, which ended the war, Hamilton remained with Washington until 1782, at which time he left to pursue a career in law. Hamilton enjoyed a large amount of success, distinguishing himself as one of New York City’s finest attorneys.

Hamilton continued his involvement in politics. He served as a New York delegate, joined James Madison and John Jay in writing the Federalist Papers, and under George Washington’s presidency, became the first secretary of the treasury.

In 1800, Thomas Jefferson narrowly won the presidency. Aaron Burr served as Jefferson’s vice president. When Jefferson ran in 1804, he did not include Burr on his ticket. Instead, Burr ran for the New York governorship, but lost. While frustrated and angry at this loss, Burr read a newspaper article that quoted Hamilton as saying that Burr was “the most unfit and dangerous man of the community.”

Burr demanded an explanation, which Hamilton refused to give. Burr then challenged Hamilton to a duel, which Hamilton reluctantly accepted. On July 11, 1804, the duel took place. Hamilton received a fatal wound and died the following day.

Hamilton’s Legacy

(Photo: Statue of Hamilton outside the U.S. Treasury building)

As we look back at Alexander Hamilton’s life, none of us can deny that he left a legacy. He served as a delegate at the Constitutional Convention and was a major author of the Federalist Papers. But most importantly, he served as our first secretary of the treasury. In this role, he created a modern financial system, funded the national debt, founded a bank, and established a mint with the dollar as currency.

Though he is not the most prominent of our founding fathers, he still had a significant impact on the success of our nation, particularly in regard to early financial stability. Two days after his death, Hamilton’s longtime friend, Gouverneur Morris said in a eulogy: “At the time when our government was organised, we were without funds, though not without resources. To call them into action, and establish order in the finances, Washington sought for splendid talents, for extensive information, and, above all, he sought for sterling, incorruptible integrity—All these he found in Hamilton.”

Hamilton Remembered

In recent years, Alexander Hamilton’s name has resurfaced because of the success of the Broadway musical, Hamilton, which is based on his life. In addition to this popular theatrical production, we remember and memorialize Hamilton in other ways. Many towns, counties, parks, bridges, schools, and even ships are named after him. Additionally, it is his face on the $10 bill. Anytime children learn about the founding of our nation, Alexander Hamilton will always be mentioned.

(Photo: Hamilton on the $10 bill)

It is through permanent memorials, like schools, museums, and statues, that we ensure a lasting tribute for those who have been loved and lost. Memorials also allow us, as people, to honor those we wish to always remember. Just as we create memorials for our heroes, we also create them for our loved ones in the form of grave markers, scholarship funds, or memorial donations.

The Importance of Legacy

As we reflect on Alexander Hamilton’s life, think also of your own life. Are you leaving a legacy that you and your family can be proud of? Have you shared what’s most important with those you care about? If you look at Hamilton’s life, his legacy was peppered with both good and bad. However, it’s up to you whether you have an accidental legacy or an intentional one. Whether your legacy empowers others or brings them low.

(Photo: U.S. Treasury in Washington, D.C.)

With our legacies, we contribute to the future. The things we do and say affect the lives of others and have the power to create good or bad. What we do matters. What Alexander Hamilton did matters. Most of us are not prominent people. Our names are unknown to thousands, or even millions, of people. But then, fame and glory aren’t the point of a legacy. Instead, it is our responsibility as good men and women to create legacies that will take our families and the next generation to a level we can only imagine.

Let’s learn from Alexander Hamilton’s successes and mistakes and live lives that positively impact others and create legacies worth remembering.

Remembering Our Founding Fathers: Thomas Jefferson

By Current Events, Exclude from Top Posts

Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” – Thomas Jefferson

(Photo: Statue of Jefferson at Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.)

The Fourth of July marks a great and long-remembered day in American history. It was on July 4th in 1776 that the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain and became an independent nation. In 1870, Independence Day became a federal holiday, though it wasn’t until 1938 that it became a paid federal holiday.

Our founding fathers consist of seven influential men. They are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton. While each of these men had faults and made mistakes, together they created our nation and continue to be remembered for their patriotism and courage.

In honor of Independence Day, let’s reflect on one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson: his life, his legacy, and the ways we have remembered and memorialized him.

Biography

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, in Virginia. He was born the third of ten siblings in a prominent family. In 1760, he attended the College of William and Mary, and eventually, he became a lawyer.

From 1767-1774, Jefferson practiced law in Virginia to great success. During this time, he also fell in love with and married Martha Wayles Skelton. They married on January 1, 1772, and eventually had six children together (though only two lived to adulthood).

Jefferson became involved in the colonial cause early in its development. In 1768, he served in the Virginia House of Burgesses, and in 1775, he attended the Second Continental Congress.

(Photo: Monticello, Jefferson’s home in Virginia)

In 1776, Jefferson was part of a five-man committee to draft a declaration of independence. He wrote the first draft in 17 days. After the Declaration was adopted on July 4, 1776, he returned to Virginia where he served in the Virginia House of Delegates and then as the second governor of Virginia.

Afterward, Jefferson retreated from public life until the untimely death of his young wife. He was then appointed the U.S. Minister to France, replacing Benjamin Franklin. After five years in France, he returned to serve as Secretary of State during Washington’s presidency.

Jefferson went on to serve as Vice President under John Adams, and in 1801, he became the third president of the United States and served two terms. Perhaps the most significant accomplishment of his presidency was the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. With this purchase from Napoleonic France, he doubled the size of the new nation.

After his presidency, Jefferson devoted much of his time to the establishment of the University of Virginia, and on July 4, 1826 – the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence – he died at his home.

Jefferson’s Legacy

(Photo: The Declaration of Independence)

As we look back at Thomas Jefferson’s life, none of us can deny that he left a legacy. He drafted the Declaration of Independence, served as both Vice President and President, and helped double the size of our nation. He was a scholar, a lawyer, a patriot, our third president, and a man whose words shaped the document that led to the creation of the United States of America.

During the last years of his life, Jefferson developed a strong friendship with his former political opponent, John Adams. In fact, they would die on the same day – July 4, 1826.

One month after their deaths, statesman Daniel Webster gave a eulogy for both men. He said:

As human beings, indeed, they are no more. To their country they yet live, and live forever. They live in all that perpetuates the remembrance of men on earth; in the recorded proofs of their own great actions, in the offspring of their intellect, in the deep engraved lines of public gratitude, and in the respect and homage of mankind. They live in their example; and they live, emphatically, and will live in the influence which their lives and efforts, their principles and opinions, now exercise, and will continue to exercise, on the affairs of men, not only in their own country but throughout the civilized world.”

Jefferson Remembered

Even now, we don’t have to look far to see the many ways that Jefferson has been remembered and memorialized. Mt. Rushmore, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, schools, universities, streets, cities, parks, and statues have been named for him. Any time children learn about the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson will always appear.

(Photo: Mount Rushmore, Jefferson is the second from the left)

It is through permanent memorials, like schools, museums, and statues, that we ensure a lasting tribute for those who have been loved and lost. Memorials also allow us, as people, to honor those we wish to always remember. Just as we create memorials for our heroes, we also create them for our loved ones in the form of grave markers, scholarship funds, or memorial donations.

The Importance of Legacy

As we reflect on Thomas Jefferson’s life, think also of your own life. Are you leaving a legacy that you and your family can be proud of? Have you shared what’s most important with those you care about? If you look at Jefferson’s life, his legacy was peppered with both good and bad. However, it’s up to you whether you have an accidental legacy or an intentional one. Whether your legacy empowers others or brings them low.

(Photo: Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.)

With our legacies, we contribute to the future. The things we do and say affect the lives of others and have the power to create good or bad. What we do matters. What Thomas Jefferson did matters. Most of us are not prominent people. Our names are unknown to thousands, or even millions, of people. But then, fame and glory aren’t the point of a legacy. Instead, it is our responsibility as good men and women to create legacies that will take our families and the next generation to a level we can only imagine.

Let’s learn from Thomas Jefferson’s successes and mistakes and live lives that positively impact others and create legacies worth remembering.

Remembering Our Founding Fathers: John Adams

By Current Events, Exclude from Top Posts

To be good, and to do good, is all we have to do.” – John Adams

(Photo: Portrait of John Adams)

The Fourth of July marks a great and long-remembered day in American history. It was on July 4th in 1776 that the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain and became an independent nation. In 1870, Independence Day became a federal holiday, though it wasn’t until 1938 that it became a paid federal holiday.

Our founding fathers consist of seven influential men. They are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton. While each of these men had faults and made mistakes, together they created our nation and continue to be remembered for their patriotism and courage.

In honor of Independence Day, let’s reflect on one of our founding fathers, John Adams: his life, his legacy, and the ways we have remembered and memorialized him.

Biography

John Adams was born on October 30, 1735, in Massachusetts to John and Susanna Adams. At 16, he earned a scholarship to attend Harvard University. He graduated in 1755 and went to work for a prominent attorney. Three years later, he earned his master’s degree from Harvard and passed the bar exam. He married Abigail Smith in October 1764, and they had six children (one of whom, John Quincey Adams, would later become the sixth president).

(Photo: John Adams’s birthplace)

Soon after the Stamp Act of 1765, Adams became identified with the colonials’ cause. He wrote many essays in opposition to Great Britain’s acts. In 1770, he represented British soldiers on trial for killing five civilians at what has become known as the Boston Massacre. He believed that every person deserved a defense. In the end, six of the eight soldiers were acquitted and two convicted of manslaughter.

At the time, the people did not look kindly on his defense of the soldiers, but in the future, his actions would enhance his reputation as a generous and fair man. In 1774, he represented Massachusetts at the First Continental Congress, and when the Continental Army was created in 1775, he nominated George Washington as commander-in-chief.

In 1776, Adams, along with Thomas Jefferson and several others, was appointed by Congress to draft a declaration. The result was our Declaration of Independence, approved on July 4. The war continued, and in 1779, Adams was one of the American diplomats (along with Benjamin Franklin) sent to negotiate the Treaty of Paris, which would end the Revolutionary War.

Adams remained in Europe for a number of years, representing the newly formed United States of America. During Washington’s two terms as president, Adams served as vice president. Then, in 1796, he became the second president of the United States, narrowly beating out Thomas Jefferson. After his single term, he retired and lived quietly with his wife in Massachusetts. He died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of American Independence.

Adams’s Legacy

(Photo: Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed)

As we look back at John Adams’s life, none of us can deny that he left a legacy. Though he often dealt with public opposition, due to his decision to defend the British soldiers after the Boston Massacre and his later decision not to start a naval war with France, he was a major influence in the founding of our nation. He was a loving father and husband, an articulate statesman and politician, and he was unswerving in his support of the cause for independence. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, our first vice president, and our second president.

Following his presidency and his retirement to Massachusetts, Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who were often opponents, began writing to each other and developed a strong friendship. They would die on the same day, one in Massachusetts, the other in Virginia.

One month after their deaths, statesman Daniel Webster gave a eulogy for both men. He said:

As human beings, indeed, they are no more. To their country they yet live, and live forever. They live in all that perpetuates the remembrance of men on earth; in the recorded proofs of their own great actions, in the offspring of their intellect, in the deep engraved lines of public gratitude, and in the respect and homage of mankind. They live in their example; and they live, emphatically, and will live in the influence which their lives and efforts, their principles and opinions, now exercise, and will continue to exercise, on the affairs of men, not only in their own country but throughout the civilized world.”

Adams Remembered

Even now, we don’t have to look far to see the many ways that Adams has been remembered and memorialized. Buildings, counties, military vessels, mountains, parks, and statues have been named for him. Any time children learn about the early days of our nation, John Adams will always appear.

(Photo: Scene from the signing of the Declaration of Independence as seen on the back of the $2 bill – Adams on far left)

It is through permanent memorials, like schools, museums, and statues, that we ensure a lasting tribute for those who have been loved and lost. Memorials also allow us, as people, to honor those we wish to always remember. Just as we create memorials for our heroes, we also create them for our loved ones in the form of grave markers, scholarship funds, or memorial donations.

The Importance of Legacy

As we reflect on John Adams’s life, think also of your own life. Are you leaving a legacy that you and your family can be proud of? Have you shared what’s most important with those you care about? If you look at Adams’s life, his legacy was peppered with both good and bad. It’s up to you whether you have an accidental legacy or an intentional one. Whether your legacy empowers others or brings them low.

(Photo: John Adams’s signature)

With our legacies, we contribute to the future. The things we do and say affect the lives of others and have the power to create good or bad. What we do matters. What John Adams did matters. Most of us are not prominent people. Our names are unknown to thousands, or even millions, of people. But then, fame and glory aren’t the point of a legacy. Instead, it is our responsibility as good men and women to create legacies that will take our families and the next generation to a level we can only imagine.

Let’s learn from John Adams’s successes and mistakes and live lives that positively impact others and create legacies worth remembering.

Remembering Our Founding Fathers: George Washington

By Current Events, Exclude from Top Posts

I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” – George Washington

(Photo: George Washington during the Revolutionary War)

The Fourth of July marks a great and long-remembered day in American history. It was on July 4th in 1776 that the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain and became an independent nation. In 1870, Independence Day became a federal holiday, though it wasn’t until 1938 that it became a paid federal holiday.

Our founding fathers consist of seven influential men. They are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton. While each of these men had faults and made mistakes, together they created our nation and continue to be remembered for their patriotism and courage.

In honor of Independence Day, let’s reflect on one of our founding fathers, George Washington: his life, his legacy, and the ways we have remembered and memorialized him.

Biography

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland, Virginia. He was the eldest child of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington, though he was the fourth child overall (his mother being Augustine’s second wife). Not much is known about his childhood, except that he was mostly educated at home and helped his father on the tobacco farm.

When he was 11, his father died, and he became the ward of his half-brother, Lawrence. Sadly, in 1752, Lawrence died of tuberculosis when Washington was only 20 years old, leaving him as the heir of Mount Vernon and the family lands.

(Photo: George Washington’s family home of Mt. Vernon) 

Shortly after Lawrence’s death, Washington’s military career began. During the French and Indian War, he was appointed a major in the Virginia militia. Though he fought bravely, bureaucracy mired his experience with the militia, and in 1758, he resigned and returned to Mount Vernon.

At this time, he married Martha Custis, a widow, and loved her two children as his own. From 1758 until the Revolutionary War began, he focused on his home and lands. As tensions with Great Britain continued to rise, he became involved in politics, and in 1775, he was appointed Major General and Commander-in-Chief of the colonial forces by the Second Continental Congress.

Through many dark days and bloody battles, Washington commanded the colonial forces until November 1783 when the war was over. He resigned from his position on December 23, 1783, and returned home to Mount Vernon to rebuild his lands.

Then, in 1789, he became the first president of the United States. In this role, he set the precedent for all the presidents that would follow. He served two terms, and in 1797, he turned the presidency over to John Adams and retired to Virginia. Two years later, in December 1799, he became sick and died. The entire country mourned at his passing.

Washington’s Legacy

(Photo: Statue of George Washington in New York City)

As we look back at George Washington’s life, none of us can deny that he left a legacy. Often called the “Father of His Country,” Washington lived with integrity and character. He cared deeply for the men under his command, he loved his wife and adopted children loyally, and he is known as a man of personal integrity, focused on duty, honor, and patriotism.

He was a loving husband and father, a military hero, and our first president. To this day, we remember him with respect and awe for who he was and what he accomplished.

At his funeral, Congressman Henry Lee eulogized Washington with these words, which would impress Washington’s memory on the American people:

“First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in humble and enduring scenes of private life. Pious, just, humane, temperate, and sincere; uniform, dignified, and commanding; his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting. … Correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence and virtue always felt his fostering hand. The purity of his private character gave effulgence to his public virtues. … Such was the man for whom our nation mourns.

Washington Remembered

Even now, we don’t have to look far to see the many ways that Washington has been remembered and memorialized. The Washington Monument, George Washington University, the state of Washington, Mt. Rushmore, the $1 bill, plus numerous institutions, towns, counties, parks, and statues are all named to honor his memory.

(Photo: Mount Rushmore, Washington depicted on far left) 

It is through these permanent memorials that we ensure a lasting tribute for those who have been loved and lost. Memorials also allow us, as people, to honor those we wish to always remember. Just as we create memorials for our heroes, we also create them for our loved ones in the form of grave markers, scholarship funds, or memorial donations.

The Importance of Legacy

As we reflect on George Washington’s life, think also of your own life. Are you leaving a legacy that you and your family can be proud of? Have you shared what’s most important with those you care about? It’s up to you whether you have an accidental legacy or an intentional one. Whether your legacy empowers others or brings them low.

(Photo: Washington Monument, built to commemorate his life and legacy)

With our legacies, we contribute to the future. The things we do and say affect the lives of others and have the power to create good or bad. What we do matters. What George Washington did matters. Most of us are not prominent people. Our names are unknown to thousands, or even millions, of people. But then, fame and glory aren’t the point of a legacy. Instead, it is our responsibility as good men and women to create legacies that will take our families and the next generation to a level we can only imagine.

Let’s learn from George Washington and live lives that positively impact others and create legacies worth remembering.

A Year in Review: The Top 5 Books on Grief & Loss from 2018

By Current Events, Grief/Loss

We mourn because we love. That’s true of us all. Grief is a universal emotion, and because it is, we can find hope and encouragement in the stories of others. Dr. Wolfelt, nationally recognized grief expert, tells us about the importance of mourning well. He says, “Making the choice not just to grieve, but to authentically mourn, provides us the courage to live through the pain of loss and be transformed by it. How ironic that to ultimately go on to live well and love well we must allow ourselves to mourn well.” Below is a list of the top 5 books published in 2018 (chosen based on Amazon reader reviews) about grief, loss, and the journey toward healing. Perhaps the words and experiences of others will help you as you navigate your own grief journey this year.

Book #1: The Widower’s Notebook, a Memoir

Author: Jonathan Santlofer

Synopsis: On a normal day in New York, Jonathan finds his wife, Joy, fighting for breath in their living room. After calling the paramedics and spending many tense hours at the hospital, he learns that she has died. Not sure how to deal with the depth of emotion welling within him, he turns to writing and art to help him maneuver through the complexities of losing the wife he loved.

Review: “Widower is stunning, harrowing, un-put-down-able…Jonathan Santlofer finds language that is immediate and intimate for the irreconcilable trauma of loss. Without pause he captures the shattered time that is grief—this book is fearless, brave for its humanity, honesty, love. Santlofer brings the reader into his heart, sharing all the things that one feels but dares not say aloud, all that one wants to know but can’t ask of themselves, of those around them, of their lost loved one.” —A.M. Homes, author of May We Be Forgiven

Book #2: Grief Day by Day

Author: Jan Warner

Synopsis: Grief Day by Day offers 365 reflections, weekly themes, and healing exercises for dealing with the complexities of grief. Jan Warner draws on her own experience with loss to offer hope and useful guidance to others who are struggling. With the book’s set-up, the reader can use it in the way that best suits them and their specific needs.

Review: “This is quite literally a shattering book: it takes in both hands and smashes one of the most pernicious of our modern myths – that grief is an aberrant state, properly and speedily to be put away. It instead explores the idea of grief as a part of life. Thus repositioned, grief can be acknowledged as one (but only one) enduring element of the mourner’s identity.” ―Sarah Gristwood, best-selling author, historian, and commentator on the British royal family

Book #3: Wonder Widows

Authors: Trish Comer, Peggy Langenwalter, and Jennifer Cox Horak

Synopsis: Written by three widows, this book is an invitation to join Trish, Peggy, and Jennifer on their journey. They kindly and lovingly share about their challenges and triumphs while navigating widowhood. This book focuses on empowering widows. Not only do the authors share their personal stories, but they explores how to shape a new identity, how to handle holidays and anniversaries, and so much more!

Review: While Wonder Widows is a compassionate window into a sensitive and painful passage, it’s also hopeful as it explores the possibility of lives rebuilt. I think this is an important book for everyone to read because sooner or later we’ll all experience loss, whether our own or that of a friend. Reading Wonder Widows gave me insight into what might be going on behind the public face a grieving person presents to the world and how we might all be more aware and compassionate.” —Amazon Reviewer Danelle

Book #4: Grief as a Second Language: A Guidebook for Living with the Loss of a Loved One

Author: Stacy Parker

Synopsis: Written by a bereaved parent, this book helps people understand and become comfortable with the language of grief. As it moves the reader toward a greater understanding of the complexities of grief, it explores important topics like how to release self-blame, how to cope with the physical absence of your loved one, and which reactions are perfectly normal (all of them!).

Review: “This book is written by the best kind of grief expert, someone who has taken the journey out of the darkness and back into the light. Stacy shares with her readers practical tips and tools for taking care of your physical and emotional health after loss and for finding purpose and meaning again. Thank you, Stacy, for being honest about your own grief journey and helping us to navigate ours. I wish I had this book after my brother died; it would have been a lifeline at a time where I felt very alone and had no idea how to navigate the second language of grief.” —Dr. Heidi Horsley, Executive Director of Open to Hope Foundation

Book #5: Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense

Author: Dr. Paul David Tripp

Synopsis: No matter what the catalyst may be, we have all had our lives changed in an instant. Whether it be death, illness, loss of employment, loss of relationship, or something else, we aren’t sure how to deal with what has happened. In this book, Dr. Tripp shares his own journey and what it means to trust God even in the midst of suffering.

Review: “We don’t have to go looking for it. It will come and find us. Sooner or later, suffering at a catastrophic level will wreck our lives. Paul Tripp understands that personally. He also understands the gospel personally. His new book does not trivialize our sufferings with glib formulas. This wise book leads us deeper into the gospel of the cross and closer to the Man of Sorrows himself.” ―Ray Ortlund, Lead Pastor, Immanuel Church, Nashville, Tennessee

Another book worth taking a look at is by noted author, educator, and grief counselor, Dr. Alan Wolfelt. Grief Day by Day: Simple, Everyday Practices to Help Yourself Survive…and Thrive was published in late 2018 and offers answers to the questions that plague the hearts of those who are grieving. How am I supposed to cope? What should I do with these thoughts and feelings? How can I both grieve and still live with hope and meaning?

Hopefully, one or more of these books will speak to your heart and give you comfort and peace on your journey through grief in 2019.

The Power of Meaningful Ceremony: Reflecting on George H.W. Bush’s Funeral

By Current Events

“People who take the time and make the effort to create meaningful funeral arrangements when someone loved dies often end up making new arrangements in their own lives. They remember and reconnect with what is most meaningful to them in life…strengthen bonds with family members and friends. They emerge changed, more authentic and purposeful. The best funerals remind us how we should live.” – Dr. Alan Wolfelt

December 5, 2018, was declared a National Day of Mourning as millions watched the televised final tribute to our 41st President, George H.W. Bush. The preplanned service had moments of heartfelt emotion, laughter, and tears. From this special memorial tribute, we can take away key lessons about what makes a healing and meaningful funeral experience. From the touching photos of Sully the service dog to the emotional moment when former senator Bob Dole gave a final salute to his friend and fellow World War II veteran, the funeral was rich with ritual, tradition, and meaning.

Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally respected grief counselor and death care educator, tells us that there are several important elements to include in a meaningful and healing funeral ceremony. These elements are necessary to facilitate the six needs that a funeral fulfills: 1) acknowledge the reality of the death, 2) embrace the pain of the loss, 3) remember the person who died, 4) develop a new self-identity, 5) search for meaning, and 6) receive ongoing support from others.

Let’s look at how these important elements were utilized to honor and remember George H.W. Bush in a way that was meaningful for his family, his friends, and his fellow Americans.

Music

Music sets the tone of a funeral and brings emotions to the forefront. In fact, one of the purposes of a funeral is to allow mourners to grieve together. In many ways, music says what words cannot. George H.W. Bush personally requested that Michael W. Smith sing “Friends are Friends Forever,” which was a touching tribute to a dear friend. He also was a huge fan of country music, so it was appropriate and touching that Reba McEntire sang in his honor during a funeral ceremony at his home church in Houston, Texas.

Readings

Readings add another facet to a meaningful service. They are another way to invite mourners to express their emotions and bring the unique spirit of the one who has died to life. As part of the ceremony, several of former president Bush’s granddaughters read passages of the Bible. As a man of strong and lifelong faith, the reading of the Bible gave both hope and comfort to his family while highlighting the personal faith of George H.W. Bush.

Viewing/Visitation/Reception

The visitation is a time for people to gather to express sympathy and support and to pay their respects. Throughout the several days that encompassed Bush’s funeral ceremony, there were several opportunities for visitation. From Monday afternoon to Wednesday morning, Bush’s casket lay in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building, allowing thousands from the public to pay their respects. After the events in Washington, D.C., the casket was transported to Texas, where Bush lay in repose at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church. Both of these opportunities allowed all mourners the opportunity to acknowledge the reality of the death and pay tribute to Bush’s life.

Eulogy/Remembrance

The eulogy is the single most important aspect of a funeral service. It is the time to acknowledge and affirm the significance of the life lived. A number of individuals gave eulogies at George H.W. Bush’s funeral, including his son, George W. Bush, and his grandson, George P. Bush. He was remembered by his son as “a great, noble man, and the best father a son or daughter could have,” and his grandson said that “it’s the honor of a lifetime to share his name.”

Symbols

Symbols, or symbolic acts, offer a focus point for the bereaved as well as a sense of comfort. In the case of Bush’s funeral, one of the key symbols was the American flag. It symbolized the life he dedicated to the service of his country. The presence of the military and their ritual actions to honor Bush, a World War II veteran, are also part of the symbolism. Additionally, the fact that Bush’s family wore black clothing and chose to have a memorial at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church are symbols in action.

 Gathering

The gathering is an opportunity for people to come together after the funeral service to share stories and to support each other. With former president Bush’s funeral, this aspect was displayed on a much larger scale than is usual. While he lay in state at the U.S. Capitol, people gathered and shared stories and offered support to each other. Also of note, all living presidents and first ladies gathered for Bush’s ceremony in a rare moment. And of course, Bush’s family and friends had many opportunities to gather together, recall memories, and comfort one another before and after the service.

Actions 

And finally, by inviting others into action, you engage mourners and invite them to put their grief into motion. Action can take place in many ways. For Bush’s funeral, having attendees stand with hand over heart as the coffin was brought into the church and sing hymns are actions that invite mourners into the grieving process. And the processional train ride in the 4141 locomotive to Bush’s final resting place brought together mourners and supporters who lined the train track, offering their support to the grieving Bush family and their respect to George H.W. Bush.

When all the elements of a meaningful funeral come together, they create a powerful, emotional, and healing tribute to a life well-lived. In the case of former president Bush, the entire funeral experience was planned in advance and allowed family members, friends, civic leaders, and regular, everyday American citizens to join together to honor the memory of a good man who loved his God and his country with all his heart. Thank you, 41, for your integrity and your service.

The Value of Vigils

By Current Events, Grief/Loss

Things happen in this world that break our hearts. In many cases, there’s nothing we personally could have done to prevent the events from occurring. Most recently, we’ve seen a number of shootings occur across the country – Brooklyn, Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton. People – old and young – lose their lives, and in the midst of it all, as human beings, we must stand together and mourn together. This is why candlelight and prayer vigils are necessary and helpful.

The grief journey is long and hard. On some days, we feel horrible, while on other days, we feel bad for feeling okay. All of this is part of the journey toward reconciliation. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally respected grief educator and counselor, says, “We, as human beings, never resolve our grief, but instead become reconciled to it…You don’t get to go around or above your grief. You must go through it. And while you are going through it, you must express it if you are to reconcile yourself to it.” In other words, we should not seek a resolution to our grief, but instead, we must pursue reconciliation. We will not “get over” what we’ve lost or go back to our “old normal.” However, we can find our “new normal” and renewed purpose and meaning.

In many ways, this healthy human need to grieve is one of the many reasons why attending a vigil may be helpful to your grief journey, especially after an expected or traumatic event. Here are 5 more reasons why attending a vigil may assist you in your grief.

Vigils Provide a Time of Remembrance

First of all, a vigil is about remembering the person or people who have died. Everyone takes time to intentionally dwell on and recall each life and mourn their loss. Often, close loved ones speak and share memories and anecdotes. These stories draw us in and give us a glimpse into the person’s life that we may not have had before. As a result, we feel closer to the one who has died and can mourn in a more personal way.

Vigils Are an Invitation to Action

Taking part in symbolic actions has grief-healing benefits. Dr. Wolfelt says, “When mourners light a candle…they are provided with a physical means of expressing their grief.” Mourning is the outward expression of an internal grief. In order to heal and find a way to move forward, we must allow our grief expression and give motion to our feelings. Attending a vigil or funeral, lighting a candle, or writing a grief journal are all examples of putting motion to grief.

Vigils Affirm Our Values and Beliefs

A third benefit to vigils is that they provide a time for us to affirm our values and beliefs. We come together with a common purpose: to mourn the loss of someone precious. During this time, we also remember that we value life, we all know the pain of loss, and we all believe in a better world. In a moving speech at a candlelight service just after 9/11, Dave Frohnmayer put it this way, this is “a time to understand even more clearly what we believe…and proudly to affirm, live and act upon those beliefs.”

Vigils Are an Expression of Our Love and Emotions

Loss unleashes a variety of emotions: confusion, yearning, anger, sadness, guilt, regret. We should not feel ashamed of our emotions; we feel what we feel. Many times, society as a whole frowns upon open expressions of grief, but this attitude is flawed. We are human. We feel, and we feel deeply. It would be unnatural not to grieve. The vigil offers an opportunity to move toward embracing your pain so that you can begin to process the loss that you feel.

Vigils Provide an Opportunity to Offer Support and Stand in Unity

Finally, a vigil brings us together as one people, one community. It is an opportunity to offer and receive support, which is absolutely vital to healthy healing. Dr. Wolfelt puts it this way, “The quality and quantity of understanding support you get during your grief journey will have a major influence on your capacity to heal.” So, a vigil provides us the ability to join with others, to stand in unity, and to mourn the loss together. We are not meant to live life alone, and our journey with grief is no different.

If you’ve lost someone to an unexpected or traumatic event, please know that your grief is normal and to be expected. Do not feel ashamed of whatever it is that you feel. Instead, do the work of grieving. Attend a candlelight or prayer vigil. Talk to people. Find a support group. Write down what you’re thinking and feeling. Paint. Dance. Whatever it is that you need to do to express your emotions in a healthy way, do it! The process will not be easy, and there will be days when you just want to give up. But if you keep moving forward, you will one day find that the intense pangs of grief are less frequent, and you have renewed hope for the future.

The Unspoken Grief of Pregnancy and Infant Loss

By Current Events, Grief/Loss

Pregnancy and infant loss is all around us. Mothers, fathers, and families the world over have felt the pain of losing a lovingly anticipated child. No matter how the child is lost – miscarriage, stillbirth, sudden infant death syndrome, complications, birth defects, or unexpected events – the grief is real and deep and living.

Noted grief educator and counselor Dr. Alan Wolfelt attests to the reality of the deep pain that accompanies the loss of a child. He says, “With the death of your child, your hopes, dreams and plans for the future are turned upside down. You are beginning a journey that is often frightening, painful, and overwhelming. The death of a child results in the most profound bereavement.”

But sadly, the society we live in is not always as compassionate and understanding, particularly in relation to pregnancy and infant loss. There are certain types of losses that go largely unacknowledged by society or are not given public expression. These losses are mourned in secret and are often not spoken of. We even have a name for this type of grief – disenfranchised grief. Dr. Ken Doka, who coined the phrase, describes it as, “Grief that persons experience when they incur a loss that is not or cannot be openly acknowledged, socially sanctioned or publicly mourned.”

To the many mothers and fathers who have lost an infant or a child in the womb, society may not acknowledge the gravity of your loss, but your loss is significant and worth grieving. Your grief is not something that should be swept under the rug or spoken of in whispers. It is real, and it is important.

So, as you move forward in your grief journey, as you mourn the loss of the child who carried many of your hopes and dreams, remember these things:

You have the right to grieve your loss

Despite what society may say, your loss is real and legitimate. You have the right to grieve. Every parent has hopes and dreams for their baby, and when the baby is lost, those deeply cherished wishes are crushed. You are left with a hollowness in your heart. But remember this – your baby was special, unique, and you have a right to mourn what will not be.

You have the right to talk about what you’ve been through

Find people you trust or others who have experienced a similar loss and talk with them. Share the weight of your grief. You don’t have to walk through this journey alone – you can invite others in. By talking about the loss, you help us all move toward being a society that acknowledges the depth of pain associated with pregnancy and infant loss.

You have the right to feel whatever it is you feel

Grief expresses itself in many different ways. Shock, denial, confusion, yearning, guilt, sadness, depression, to name a few. None of these are wrong. They are all normal. In fact, there’s no “right” way to grieve. For every one of us, the experience is different. So, embrace whatever it is that you feel – don’t push it away. We must go through the pain to move toward healing and reconciliation.

You have the right to be physically and emotionally weary

Grief is hard work. All of the emotions swirling inside, often not finding expression, sap your energy. You may find it hard to sleep, and as a result, feel tired and overwhelmed. In some cases, people may even experience physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, and weight loss or gain. Please know – this is a natural reaction. The body is in distress, the same as the mind and heart. Be kind to yourself as you grieve.

You have the right to grieve differently than your partner

Since there’s no “right” way to grieve, it stands to reason that no two people will grieve in the exact same way. But just because your grief and your partner’s grief don’t look the same doesn’t mean you aren’t both grieving. Give each other room to grieve. Give each other grace to grieve differently. And move toward each other, rather than away, as you process this profound loss in your lives.

You have the right to be unashamed of your loss

Despite what society or insensitive people around you may say, your loss is legitimate. You have every right to feel deep emotions. You have every right to mourn what might have been, what you hoped for. Do not try to hide what you feel. Openly express what your baby’s loss has meant to you. If others don’t understand, that doesn’t mean you should try to conceal your grief. By no means do you need their permission to grieve.

You have the right to have your loss acknowledged

You do have the right to have your loss acknowledged, though you shouldn’t go around demanding that people do so. Forcing people into something is never truly successful. Instead, find comfort in the knowledge that your loss is worth acknowledgment, and because it is, awareness groups all over the country are working to bring it out of the shadows and into the light.

You have the right to experience grief bursts

A grief burst is a moment when something triggers a surge of grief. The trigger could be anything – your due date, another baby the same age as yours, a quote, a movie, an article of clothing. These bursts are a normal and natural part of the grieving process. Don’t be surprised when you experience them and find someone who knows your struggle to talk with when they occur.

You have the right to cherish your memories

There are many ways to cherish your memories. Collect keepsakes – ultrasound photos, handmade items, a lock of hair, photos, etc. – and create a memory box or scrapbook. Write your thoughts and feelings down or write letters to your baby. Have a piece of jewelry made with your baby’s initials or birthstone. Start a tradition that brings you comfort.

You have the right to move toward your grief and heal

Like any grief – recognized or not – you have the right to grieve and to heal. Dr. Wolfelt tells us that we never get over a death; instead, we learn to reconcile ourselves to the loss. He states, “Your feelings of loss will not completely disappear, yet they will soften, and the intense pangs of grief will become less frequent. Hope for a continued life will emerge as you are able to make commitments to the future…. The unfolding of this journey is not intended to create a return to an ‘old normal’ but the discovery of a ‘new normal.’”

If you take nothing else away, know that your loss is significant, and it is heartbreaking. You have the right to mourn the loss of a child much loved and gone too soon. Grieve in whatever way you need so that you can find healing, peace, and reconciliation.

Facing Traumatic Events: 5 Keys to Resilience After Loss

By Current Events, Exclude from Top Posts

Snowstorms leave families trapped. Tornadoes rip through homes. Wildfires ravage forests and towns. Floods continue to devastate cities. Hurricanes batter our shores. As traumatic events seem to strike at every turn, people have no choice but to leave behind life the way they knew it – homes, cars, treasured mementos, family heirlooms. If you’ve been faced with loss — whether you have lost a loved one, a home, job, or a relationship — you know how important it is to slow down and give yourself time to process your feelings of grief. It is okay to feel sorrow over what has been lost. It’s normal, in fact! But through these catastrophic events, we never fail to see the human spirit rise above and keep living. So, what are some of the keys to this kind of resilience?

Simply defined, resilience is the ability “bounce back” from difficult circumstances. When faced with hardship, you adapt, find a way to rebuild your life, and come back better than ever.

Practically speaking, how can you live a resilient life while dealing with the devastation of loss and financial instability? In a very real sense, when we lose the possessions most precious to us, it’s almost as if we are losing a part of ourselves and our connection to the past. Thankfully, there are many ways to build your resilience, and it is not a quality a person is born with, but a quality that is cultivated. You can be resilient and come out better, no matter what your struggle.

As you walk down the road of grief, think of these five keys as stepping stones. This is not an exhaustive list of how you can cultivate a resilient life, but it is a beginning. It takes great strength to mourn fully and well while also taking those first steps forward to a new life.

  1. Allow Yourself to Grieve

It’s important to allow yourself to feel the emotions of your loss. It is a significant event to lose everything you’ve worked for, every possession that may have meaning to you. Don’t bottle up your emotions, thinking, “I should be grateful. I’m alive. What are a few things?” It does little good to belittle the loss that you feel. Acknowledge it, own the pain, and move toward healing. In one of the California fires, the home of “Peanuts” creator, Charles Schulz, burned to the ground. Jean Schulz, widow of Charles, shared that while the majority of “Peanuts” memorabilia is safely housed in a museum, she is devastated at the loss of the home she shared with Charles for 25 years as well as some irreplaceable keepsakes. The key is to give yourself permission to grieve.

  1. Take Care of Yourself

No matter what event or circumstance you may be grieving, it’s important to take care of yourself. Your mind and body are connected, so as you take care of your body, you care for your mind. Make sure to get enough sleep and exercise, and do not seek to dull your grief but experience it and express it. Making connections is also a big part of building resilience and maintaining personal well-being. Stay connected with family members, friends, support groups, faith-based groups, and non-profit organizations that can help you through a difficult time.

  1. Be Prepared for Grief Triggers

While most often associated with the loss of a loved one, grief triggers can be associated with any type of loss. There will be times when external circumstances – a word, smell, place – may trigger a memory in you, perhaps a painful one. For example, if you have lost everything in a fire, including your mother’s wedding dress that you hoped to wear on your own wedding day, it will bring back painful memories when your cousin says how excited she is to wear her own mother’s wedding dress. There will be moments when the pain resurfaces – count on it! – so do your best to prepare yourself so that when the strong emotions come, you aren’t blindsided by them.

  1. Give Yourself Time

There’s no rush, no time frame. Every person grieves differently, and there’s no set formula. It’s okay to take as long as you need to grieve but make sure you don’t get stuck in your grief. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, renowned grief counselor and author, says, “We don’t ‘recover from’ or ‘get over’ grief. Instead, we become reconciled to it. We learn to live with it and integrate it into our continued living. We come to reconciliation in our grief journeys when the full reality of the loss becomes a part of us. Healing is not returning to an old normal but rather creating a new normal.”

  1. Accept Change

The treasures of your old memories may be gone, and there may be nothing you can do but grieve their loss. Take the time you need to grieve, but also, remember that change is a part of life. There will come a time to build new memories. Don’t be afraid to live fully and build new, precious moments and cherish the keepsakes that go along with them. You are alive, so go live!

How You Can Help Now

If you would like to help families currently affected by natural disasters, consider giving of your time or resources to one of these organizations:

  1. United Way – raising funds to assist those who have lost their homes and possessions.
  2. American Red Cross – raising funds to assist families affected by disaster.
  3. UNICEF – provides children and families with disaster relief whenever emergencies strike.

Mourning as a Community in the Face of Tragedy

By Current Events, Exclude from Top Posts

Senseless. Horrifying. Heartbreaking. No words can capture the shock we feel at yet another shooting. This time, Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, CA, is reeling. This event comes far too soon after the shootings at an El Paso Walmart; Brooklyn, NY; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Aurora, Illinois; Thousand Oaks, California; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and too many others to name. According to reports, a gunman opened fire at Saugus High School, injuring several people. Two young people have died and three others were injured. The suspect has died from self-inflicted injuries.

These tragedies encompass not only the grief and mourning of individual families but of entire communities. As we seek to mourn the victims and process the events, we should consider how to mourn together, as people, as communities.

Communally, how do we mourn such traumatic events?

Respected grief expert, Dr. Alan Wolfelt, has worked with families dealing with grief over the unexpected, traumatic death of a loved one. He says, “After someone you care about dies a sudden, violent death, you are forced to struggle with both the traumatic nature of the death and your grief over the loss. Naturally, traumatized mourners often find themselves replaying and reconsidering over and over the circumstances of the death. This is both normal and necessary. Such replay helps you begin to acknowledge the reality of the death and integrate it into your life. It’s as if your mind needs to devote time and energy to comprehending the circumstances of the death before it can move on to grieving the fact that this person will no longer be part of your life.”

As individuals, as communities, we struggle to comprehend these events. How and why would anyone do this? The survivors and the victims’ families will likely replay the day in their minds over and over. They may even wonder if they could have done something different. They couldn’t have. No one could have known what had been planned. So, now we ask, how do we move forward? We band together, support each other, and mourn as one.

What does it mean to mourn?

Grief is an internal feeling. It is the part of us that feels anguish over these events. Mourning is an outward expression of our internal grief, and it pushes us to externalize our grief, to take action to express that grief. Without externally expressing our grief, emotions can become internalized and remain inside us, unaddressed.

When an event touches an entire community, an entire nation, it is important to externalize our grief and mourn TOGETHER.

Community mourning – how do we do that?

Prayer Vigils

First, our churches and houses of worship can open their doors for prayer vigils. After the events at the Boston Marathon, places of worship all over the city opened their doors to the community. It was an act of communal mourning and a way to come together, grieve together, and heal together.

Candlelight Vigils

Similarly, individuals, businesses, churches, or schools can coordinate candlelight vigils and invite their communities to participate. In 2007, the Virginia Tech shooting horrified the nation. Then, and even now, ten years later, the community, the students, and the families came together to mourn and to remember those who lost their lives. The candle indicates the unity of those participating, their prayers and thoughts for the victims, and their desire to remember those who have been lost.

Memorials

Finally, communities mourn together through creating memorials. To mourn the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, people near and far came together, wrote prayer notes, paid their respects at memorials throughout town, mourning the tragic events together. These memorials help us feel connected to the victims. As a result, they give us a way to show that we care about them, that we mourn their loss.

Communal mourning events are important. We are all affected by this event in some measure, and we need to support each other, giving special support to the survivors and the families of the victims. A significant way that we, as friends, neighbors, and fellow Americans, can show our support is to come together to acknowledge and mourn this significant loss.

How can we take action?

  1. Donate blood to your local blood bank.
  2. Give funds toward the victims’ funerals and assist the families financially.
  3. Participate in moments of silence, prayer or candlelight vigils, or visit memorials to offer a token of our mourning.
  4. Create an emergency plan for our families, in preparation for unexpected events.

It is imperative that we mourn as communities; that we support and pray for those most closely affected by this senseless act; and that we come together and deepen the ties of our communities. May God be with the families and friends of the victims of these tragedies.