As a professional organizer, one of the things my clients will often hear me say is, “Remember to close the loop”. What I mean by this is finish the task. There is a natural cycle to tasks, and they are not finished until all the steps involved in doing the task are completed. If we are talking about laundry, that task is not done until the laundry is put away. My siblings and I are gathering to close the loop and honoring my brother this weekend.
Like many families, we lost my brother during the Pandemic lockdown. He did not have the disease but died suddenly from a massive heart-attack. He was too young. At 61 he had a lot of life yet to live. Charles was a social guy. In fact, he thrived on being in a crowd and entertaining anyone who would listen. I know that like many others who live alone, the circumstances of the lockdown made him sad and lonely.
Of course, we shared text messages and some phone calls but those didn’t really help Charles since he longed to be with people. He had just moved to Stonington from Madison, Connecticut. He and I had a few calls about organizing his new home. I let him know he would feel more settled when he finished unpacking boxes. Once again, close the loop. This was not to be.
It was November 1st, All Saints Day, when I got the news that Charles had passed. My two sisters and my other brother along with Charles’ son and a few of the cousins decided to meet at a small chapel connected to the funeral parlor in Connecticut a few days later.
Even though we are a close family we were all a little fearful. We met outside the chapel and gave each other a quick little hug. Of course, we were all masked and staying a respectful 6 feet apart. We didn’t want to get too near each other. There we were in this chapel to which we had no connection, listening to a priest we didn’t know, rush through some prayers. Once back outside, we got into our respective cars and drove to a little restaurant which had managed to stay open. We had a meal and then parted ways.
This gathering felt wrong to me. Yes, we were able to be together but I was not satisfied, nor did I feel at peace. This was not the sendoff my brother would have wanted.
Celebrating a Life
This weekend we are celebrating Charles’ life. We are meeting and celebrating his life with a service at a chapel just outside of Tannersville, NY. Our parents had a summer home here. We spent many wonderful fun-filled summers in this community. Every Sunday we sang in the choir alongside our peers.
Yesterday, July 10th, was a perfectly beautiful summer day. We, and some of the friends we knew (and who knew our brother) gathered at this lovely little chapel nestled in the Catskill mountains. We stood around the headstone placed next to that of our father and remembered Charles.
The pastor had been in touch with my other brother, Chris, and put together a meaningful tribute. Chis also shared some of his thoughts. Charles’ son, Charles, followed Chris with a few thoughtful and heart-felt remarks.
Following this service, we met at the clubhouse for lunch. A few of the cousins remarked that it looked like the dining room from the movie, Dirty Dancing. I had to chuckle at that comment because there is a small theatre where the community puts on a show every summer and there is even a lake!
This gathering closed the loop for me and for the rest of the family. We came together in a place that meant something to us and to Charles. We buried his ashes and said our good-byes.
I know that there are thousands of families who lost a loved-one during this pandemic. We were not alone in having a quick service or maybe even no service at all to honor the family member.
It was important for our family to do something else. To gather when it became possible to share warm and meaningful hugs. We always knew that Charles’ final resting place was going to be in this graveyard. So, we waited to schedule this service when most of us could be there. Yes. We missed 3 cousins, traveling to upstate New York wasn’t possible for them. But we know they were thinking of us and of their Uncle Charles.
Maybe this is you. Did your family miss out on gathering together to honor a loved-one? My suggestion is to close the loop. Try to schedule a time to be together to remember your loved-one. Share those long awaited, meaningful hugs and tears. It has helped me and my siblings and brought us peace. I hope it will help you, too.
Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® ,a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia