Organizing a ceremony for a one year death anniversary

Organizing a ceremony for a one year death anniversary

Last year on the 8th of January I received some very difficult news. My father had passed away from a sudden heart attack. The fact that he had no known history of heart problems, made this news particularly hard to process.

Sudden loss is such a strange concept. Your reality transforms within seconds. A forced change to your existence that has to be accepted.

It felt like a bomb exploded in my hands that made it difficult to hear and understand what was happening.

organising a non religious ceremony for a one year death anniversary

A year later, reality has started sinking in.

Time does not necessarily heal one’s pain. It just gives you space to process and adjust. The loss of a loved one is always painful.

Time doesn’t change that. It just reduces the intensity. You get used to the new reality.

organising a non religious ceremony for a one year death anniversary

This year I just happened to be in my hometown, Athens with my mother and sister. Therefore, I was looking for ways to spend this day together.

Organizing a ceremony for the occasion. Since my father was not of the religious kind, it had to be a non-religious ceremony.

Plus, there is no grave. My father was cremated and had his ashes spread in the sea, as he wished. Since we are all surrounded by water, I like to think he is nowhere and everywhere.

organising a non religious ceremony for a one year death anniversary

In the days leading to the 8th of January, I started looking up death anniversary ceremonies. Organizing a non-religious ceremony for a one year death anniversary was the plan for the day.

The flaming Viking boat in the sea was one idea. Known as Norse funeral, is a burial custom of the Viking Age. You can construct a small boat and let it on fire on the water.

Burning boat for death anniversary
Photo by Marcel Dinahet: Burning the Boats

Another custom is releasing sky lanterns in the air. You have to use a candle to light one lantern as you speak your words of love or good-bye. When you’re ready you release it and watch it float away.

Organising a ceremony for a death anniversary

However, health and safety issues (i.e. Covid, fire) and the potential environmental waste were a bit of a concern for me.

So we decided to go with something safe and simple but meaningful.

It would just be me, my mum and my sister. Just the four of us, as it always has been.

In the morning we went out in the garden and collected flowers.

Then everyone had to write a paragraph for the occasion. It had to be something you would tell him if he was here. We then planned reading later in the day.

Our little ceremony was set to start at 18.00.

We lit 4 candles, one for each, and placed them together with the flowers. Next to them, we left his glasses and a picture of him.

In the background, we let his favorite song play. ”Another Brick in The Wall” by Pink Floyd.

Then we started sharing our paragraphs. Along with a glass of wine, we continued to share memories and thoughts.

We cried, laughed and hugged. Not necessarily in that order.

It was a bittersweet process.

To be fair, these kinds of ceremonies are not really for the person gone. They are mostly for the ones left behind. A need to remember and honor your beloved ones.

Me, my mum and dad in Paris June 2019.

When I think about my dad I feel grateful. He taught me how to be loved, independent, and always push myself to do more. Most importantly, how to do this thing called life my way and be ok with it.

Mr Vassilis Gkikas