Things on Our Family Altar for the Beloved Dead

We have a family tradition every Nov. 1st of creating an altar with photos and mementos to represent loved ones who have passed away. We tell stories and light candles to remember and honor them.
  1. Photo of my dad.
    Also a ticket the the Everest IMAX movie because it was the last thing we did together, and an old IBM pocket notebook that says "Think" on it, because he used to carry it around with him. It's been 16 years since he died, I find new and unexpected ways to miss him every day.
  2. Photos of my maternal grandparents.
    Beautiful photo of my grandmother, from whom I get my love of books, in her wedding dress. WWII Air Force photo of my grandpa inscribed with "To the sweetest girl in the world." Their local hometown paper wrote an article about their wartime love story. Things weren't always easy for them, but they both lived and loved passionately.
  3. Pet paraphernalia.
    *Picture of the Border Collie I had growing up. Smartest dog ever. *Statue of my mother in law's sweet-tempered dog, beloved of grand babies. *Fishbowl to represent the 3 goldfish we've killed. (One hardy fish still lives!) *Hermit crab shell.
  4. Photo of my paternal grandparents.
    Irish Catholics who raised 6 kids and worked hard all their lives. When they retired they bought an old logging cabin in the high Sierras, and with the help of kids & grandkids remodeled it into a beautiful home full of adventure and memory, and which is still in the family today.
  5. Photos of my husband's grandparents.
    The most loving and generous people in the world. (Even if they did keep an 8x10 photo of Ronald Reagan on the piano as if he were a member of the family.)
  6. Letters from my high school friend Jeanne.
    An activist and rebel who played hard and worked even harder. She died from a brain tumor shortly after we graduated college. I still feel her loss. The world could use her passion for justice about now.
  7. An dove necklace charm for the miscarriage I had 13 years ago.
  8. A little red haired doll (belonging to my youngest daughter) a twin of the doll who met her untimely end in the jaws of a dog who mistook her for a chew toy.
  9. A birch-bark wrapped candle.
    To represent the wild god, who according to Celtic mythology crosses over to the land of the dead on All Hallows Eve and will be reborn with the sun on Winter Solstice morning.