Remembering That They Lived, Not How They Died

History ~ Mission ~ Vision Moonlit Memory Walk

Pulling great ideas out of a dusty fundraising cupboard can be a challenge. There are very few new events or new campaigns. When the idea of the Moonlit Memory Walk first started to percolate the question, does the world need another “a-thon”, certainly was posed.

This event however, is more than just an a-thon. It is a time for healing through the sharing of memories and stories. It is a way for our loved ones to live on in the way we tell others, who may have never met them, who they were and what legacy they left in this world.

Everyone leaves a legacy. There are few people who know me who do not know of a particular tidbit about my grandfather. He would offer beer to the garbage workers when they came to pick up the trash in the summer. “Anyone who works that hard on a hot day deserves a cold beer”. My grandfather died in 1999. The people who know this story did know him, but certainly know the kind of man he was.

When my mind and imagination started to unpack the idea of the Moonlit Memory Walk, the first thing I knew was that we did not need another event to remind us how our loved ones had died. Which is how the original tag line; “remember how they lived, not how they died” came to be. Today, we have changed the tag line to remember that they lived versus how they lived. The change was made to ensure we welcome parents and families whose baby died in utero. The idea that they lived seemed far more appropriate.

2017 was the first year for the walk, for Home Hospice Association. We put together a small but mighty planning committee who, while recognizing we needed to make some adjustments to the event idea, still were so accommodating when it came to elements of the vision that simply had to stay in place.

One such element was the lanterns. Each person attending the walk received a lantern to carry with them along the pathway. As our participants left the venue to gather for the walk we lit our candles. With both the light of the full harvest moon and the light that came from our candles we walked together! It looked so beautiful. A bit tough to capture in a photograph, however, so if you did not see it for yourself; well perhaps you will join us this year and have the experience!

The other element that was and is so important to the Moonlit Memory Walk is the story-probing questions that we shared with our walkers. The questions were designed to bring more laughter than tears, although tears are always a welcome and healing part of grief. One question; what would your loved one say if they were asked if you have been behaving yourself since he / she died received some laughter and quite frankly groans!

Leading up to the walk, those who registered ahead of time were able to create a tribute page for the loved one they were walking in memory of. This was a great way for the fundraising component of the walk to build. Each page could be shared with friends, family and co-workers who could then make an in-memoriam donation on behalf of our loved ones. This also provided the opportunity to share a thought, message or memory. “I will always remember choir practices with your dad, he had such a wonderful singing voice.” Or “I never did meet your mom but she sounds like one feisty lady; I am so glad you are walking in her memory.”

Making an in-memoriam donation, instead of sponsoring or pledging for distance, not only makes the walk unique but also makes it so much more inclusive. Those with mobility challenges are still able to participate. Some participants did not walk the path at all. They enjoyed all the elements of the evening, joined in the legacy components and savoured a cup of coffee overlooking the Humber River while others walked the path.

And personally, the reading of the names of our loved ones before we walk is my favorite part of the evening. It truly sums up the beauty and uniqueness of the event. There is something just so powerful about it. Hearing their name, processing the imprint they have made on our hearts and being acutely aware of why we are gathered is a most significant part of the evening.

Sadly, there was a name added quite last minute to the names of our loved ones that evening. That name was Berenice Robertson, my mother. She died 13 days before the 2017 Moonlit Memory Walk.

From her Tribute Page: “While it still feels so weird to use the words mom and died in the same sentence; I am so grateful she is at peace. I am so proud of how, as a family, we came together so that she did not spend one minute alone. And I am so sad that we will be saying her name next Thursday evening.”

We share that bitter sweetness of gratitude for opportunities, such as the Moonlit Memory Walk, and sadness that we need to take advantage of such opportunity. Which, quite frankly, is exactly how most feel about the need for home hospice care in our communities. And why events such as the Moonlit Memory Walk are so important to provide the funding to fill the need.

Whether the world needs another a-thon or not, the Moonlit Memory Walk will continue to exist, grow and do all the great things it does. Raising Money ~ Raising Awareness ~ Raising our voices in honor and celebration of those we love ~ Helping us to remember that they lived.

For more information about the Moonlit Memory Walk visit www.moonlitmemorywalk.org​

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