I left my mother in her home town of LaPorte, IN, safely nestled at the foot of her parents’ graves. Yes, my heart still aches with loss, but it is tempered by the feeling of “rightness” in our actions of bringing her home, participating in a ceremony of honoring, and closing out her life’s final chapter.
Perhaps this is what is meant by “closure.”
In the airport, waiting for my flight home, I began thinking about ritual and why it’s an important vehicle to help transport us through life. How can the simple process of taking someone’s ashes to another location, placing them in the ground and saying a few words (or, in this case, singing a song) make the world appear to realign itself? It felt like I sent forth a giant mantra of “let all be well” to my mom and the earth and all the mysteries of life.
Still, I’m left asking, “why does it work; why is it important?” Donna Henes says, “Ritual practice is as old as humanity, developing from people’s compelling need to understand and connect with the infinite, archetypal, unexplainable mysteries of life. Rituals offered our ancestors a glimpse of the divine order as well as a sense of belonging to something bigger. It’s a ceremony of sorts which begins with thought, purpose and an identified aim. Also, it’s not passive, but participatory. There is no way to benefit from a ritual by just watching it, or by reading or hearing about it. It must be experienced to be affective, or effective, for that matter.”
Maybe that’s why it works. It allows us to take a bit of control. We are no longer solely being buffeted by the uncontrollable events around us; we are able to take this small ceremony and manage it, focus our attention to it, set an intention and participate towards its fruition. I cannot control life and death, but I can control this.
The other ceremony that comes to my mind is one I participated in 25 years ago. Up to that point, I had struggled with the repercussions of an abusive childhood. I had read books about forgiveness, I had journaled my anger and bitterness in hopes of releasing them, I had made excuses for the abusive behavior and I tried repressing the memories as well. Nothing seemed to alleviate my pain until I found myself, during a vacation in Sedona, participating in a medicine wheel ceremony. During that ceremony, I was given the gift of allowing myself to leave one large piece of “baggage” behind within the wheel. At that spot, in the middle of Boyton Canyon, on the hot dusty ground, I set down my bag of anger, hurt, bitterness and grief – and I never looked back. I left my baggage in Sedona, the best luggage I could have ever lost on vacation. Could I have done it without the medicine wheel, without the burning sage, without the ritual, without the intention? I hadn’t been able to before.
Rituals and ceremonies with honest, sincere intention seem to somehow place our personal, spinning world back on its axis. They are a bit of control in the uncontrollable world.
In general, I’m known for multi-step, slightly complicated desserts. Today, I’m sharing an easy one with you. For each family-member’s birthday, another ritual, mom would make us our favorite dessert. When I was young, I always requested this pie. I remember “Happy Birthday” spelled out in slivered strawberries across the top. Lucky for me, my birthday falls around the beginning of strawberry season, ensuring peak flavor.
Mom’s Easy No-Bake Strawberry Pie
This is an easy, no-bake pie to make in Spring and Summer when strawberries are at their peak of flavor.
- 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs (about 10 graham crackers)
- 7 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 8 oz. mini marshmallows
- ¼ cup whole or 2% milk
- 4 cups (about 1 ½ lbs.) cleaned, hulled, and thickly sliced strawberries
- 2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream
- Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Press along bottom and sides of a 9” pie plate. Set aside.
- In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt mini marshmallows and milk in the microwave for approximately 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until marshmallows are completely melted.
- While marshmallow mixture cools slightly, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form.
- Stir sliced strawberries into marshmallow mixture. Fold in whipped cream in four additions. Spoon filling into crust until pie is generously filled. Chill for at least 4 hours before enjoying.