This November – the traditional Month of Remembrance of souls – faithful of the Diocese of Trenton are marking a particularly challenging year with the loss of so many during the global pandemic.

Coinciding with the annual lighting of the Our Lady of Guadalupe torches (Las Antorchas Guadalupanas) and their trek through the Diocese of Trenton, this year’s virtual Tribute Wall of Remembrance is an opportunity to assign a specific action of memoriam to the passing of a family member or friend, especially when coronavirus restrictions have prevented so many in-person funerals and Masses.

The bereaved are invited to inscribe their deceased loved one’s name on its Tribute Wall of Remembrance at dioceseoftrenton.org/tribute-wall.

“Many people who deal with death every day – professional caregivers such as hospice, grief counselors, clergy, and medical practitioners –  have said that rituals of remembrance are beneficial for the person who grieves over the loss of a loved one,” said Josue Arriola, director of the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life.

A ritual of remembrance, he explained, is “an established principle that helps heal so that people can live their lives in meaningful ways.” Funeral services, for example, allow people to say goodbye to a loved one and for the family to move from grieving into remembrance. “The Tribute Wall memorial provides a place and a way for families to remember and honor their loved ones forever.”

Arriola said that some experts summarize the need for remembrance with these six reasons: to acknowledge the reality of death and that death is not the end; that the emotions associated with death are real; that the relationship with the person who has died has shifted from physical to spiritual; to acknowledge changes in personal self-identity; to ponder and search for new and more deep purpose in life; and to receive loving support of family and friends, recognizing that we are not alone.

While grief may never go away entirely, remembrance lives on, Arriola noted. “We know the hope there is in Eternal Life, and we know that the body’s death is not the end of our existence. We want to remember those we’ve loved and lost, not only for them, but also as importantly for ourselves, to mend, to heal, to live, and never to forget.”

Scripture passages speak of the need to see beyond the temporal – something that can be assisted by participating in a ritual like inscribing a loved one’s name in a book or on a wall. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor 4:17-18).”

Even those experiencing temporary losses can benefit from a ritual of remembrance, as Arriola experienced personally growing up in Guatemala.

“My dad was a bullfighter and was out of the family for many days each month,” he said. “Every time he left, it was challenging, so my mother … made [me and my sister] cut beautiful flowers from her garden; each flower carried a message to my dad, and we would put each flower on the river with the message. My mother told us that those flowers would get to my dad and give him our message. I clearly remember that ritual and the peace that it brought [us].”