Fly & Remember: Celebrating the lives of those we’ve lost

Even though Judy Fleming’s father died three years ago, she takes comfort knowing he lived a good life and died a peaceful death in his home with family around him. While she has made peace with his death, she often finds herself missing him and looks for an opportunity to remember and feel connected.

“Even after we learn to cope with the grief of losing a loved one, there is no promise we will stop missing them. And for some of us, we don’t want to,” Karen Monts, director of grief support services at Hospice of Michigan, said. “In fact, people often say the fading memory of those we love can be the hardest things to cope with.”

To offer the bereaved an opportunity to remember and celebrate the legacy of their lost loved ones, HOM will hold nine community-wide Fly & Remember memorial events throughout Michigan in September. Attendees at these free annual events have the opportunity to personalize a kite in memory of their loved one and then to fly it in that person’s honor. Anyone who has experienced a loss is welcome to attend, not just those who died under Hospice of Michigan care.

“Fly & Remember is an uplifting event that provides people with time to remember their loved ones and reflect on their life in a positive and productive way,” Monts said. “Memorializing loved ones who have passed allows the bereaved to keep the essence of their loved one alive.

“It is important to remember that coping with grief isn’t about forgetting your loved one, it’s about getting to a place where you can find peace with the loss and happiness in the memories you once shared.”

In an effort to keep the memory of her father alive, Fleming has attended Fly & Remember each year since his death. She also brings her mother, who is looking for ways to hold on to memories of her husband of 65 years.

“Instead of typical kite decorations, my mom and I write a letter to my dad on the kite,” Fleming said. “When we fly it, we feel like we’re sending him a message. The Fly & Remember event has become a wonderful day to remember and celebrate my father. When I fly the kite I feel connected to him and a sense of peace falls over me. I’m reminded that he’s gone to a better place.”

Fleming said in addition to memorializing her father, there is an overwhelming feeling of support by those who attend.

“The event is very welcoming. I see many of the same people attend each year, and I’ve become friends with some of them,” Fleming said. “There are people there that I can talk to and even cry with – and they understand where I’m coming from.”

Each community hosting a Fly & Remember event plans to partner with other organizations and offer unique activities, such as live music and reading of poems. Events will be held:

  • Sept. 6 in Manistee
  • Sept. 8 in Boyne City
  • Sept. 12 in Lake City
  • Sept. 13 in Gaylord
  • Sept. 13 in Royal Oak
  • Sept. 16 in Ann Arbor
  • Sept. 16 in Grand Rapids
  • Sept. 18, in Traverse City
  • Sept. 27 in Alpena

“These events offer something for all members of a family,” Monts said. “In addition to the spiritual healing it offers adults, it offers kids a healthy way to remember those they’ve lost and creates an opportunity for them to open up and talk about it.”

Fly & Remember registration information and location specifics can be found on hom.convio.net/site/PageServer?pagename=FLY_and_Remember.

For those who can’t attend, HOM is offering families the opportunity to make a donation and fly a virtual kite in memory of a loved one. The virtual experience also gives friends and family an opportunity to post messages of support and share memories of the deceased.

Fly & Remember, which was first held in 2009, is just one of many ways that HOM works with patients and patient families to offer support, strength and guidance through the emotional challenges of loss. For more information on HOM grief support and memorial events, visit www.hom.org.