Marisa Colaiano was someone dear to the Colorado Rapids family. As part of the Rapids’ organization for nearly 10 years, she led the Rapids’ efforts to build relationships within the community. Her death in 2012 at a young age due to Multiple sclerosis was difficult for family, friends, and staff of the Rapids organization. It can be tremendously difficult for an organization to maintain the “memory” of one who has served for so long and made such an impact, but as a few remaining staff gathered this past weekend to honor her life and memory, there were some profound reflections from our experience together.
M is for Marisa: And Memory
In leading our time together, I felt that the assembled group ought to observe 4 moments of silence and prayer to commemorate the 4 years since Marisa’s death. The time together was a tremendous blessing because there were stories and words and memories of Marisa that were shared that I had simply forgotten. A story from one about her attempts to evangelize him (being a White Sox fan) into becoming a Cubs fan – her fierce loyalty to the Chicago Cubs baseball team being one of the fondest memories of many around the circle. Words like “her joy,” “her smile,” “her infectious laugh” were all offered up as we stood gathered – remembering.
Remembering is an important part of helping one’s grief. When we remember someone, we “re”- “member.” We put that person back together. We use stories and words and memories to take what is lost to us, what is broken and missing and to make it “whole” again. For some of us, the memories are stronger because our relationships with that particular person were closer, more intimate. For others, there is the simple need to slow down and even stop for a moment.
M is for Marisa: And Memorialize
While the timing of our memorial service was difficult as other staff had game-day duties and not everyone was able to be there for the game, it is truly something in this day and age to press the “pause” button on life and work to remember someone. Even as fans began to assemble and line-up to enter into the stadium for the weekend match, there almost seemed to be a cocoon of quiet and peace. One could sense that this was a special time, a sacred place and moment that was taking place. While difficult in this day and age, when we take the time to honor and recognize the memory of someone, we are honoring a part of who we are as human beings made in the imago dei, the image of God. We echo the words of many throughout time who say — to God, and to others: Remember Me.
In fact, Jesus made this part of his own ministry to the disciples (his best friends) as he instituted the sacrament of communion. Saying “Do this in remembrance of me…” was one of the most beautiful gifts that he has given to Christian followers. In a sense, he gave us a pattern for putting brokenness together into wholeness. Sharing of bread, a meal, and wine together is perhaps the most intimate thing that we can do as a community of people. And in remembering Jesus, there is a wholeness that is restored to us in our faith, in our soul.
Today, especially in the West, we have sanitized our memorialization of people. Funeral services are held with brevity. We rush to make arrangements. We want to move on. We marginalize and push suffering, dying, and death to the fringes of our experience and memory. As a pastor at a large church for many years, I was always surprised at the lengths some people went to anesthetize their children or other family members from death. Parents wanting to shield their children, worried about exposing them to sadness and pain, would often ask me about what arrangements might be made for their children during a funeral or memorial service. While one might want to commend such a sensitivity to innocence, such practices I believe are ultimately unhealthy for one’s sense of human frailty and personal awareness.
M is for Marisa: And Motivation
During one of the moments of silence, my encouragement to our group gathered was to consider something about Marisa that brought inspiration or could be a value or commitment that we might continue to live out in her memory. For myself, I wanted to take away her spirit of joy and laughter. I tend to be a bit melancholy and I know that there are moments when I need to be more joyful in the company of others. Marisa’s life and memory serve to me as a reminder of enjoying the moments and the people that I spend time with.
As people of faith, one of the most important things we can take away from remembering someone is a motivation for how we ought to live life. The author of Hebrews writes to encourage us to live an inspired life,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us… (Hebrews 12:1)
Those that we have loved, that we have lost — serve as a reminder, as an inspiration, as motivation for us in how we can live our life. Who is someone that has been part of your life that you have lost? What parts of them serve as motivation for you?
Even in the negative, we can still be motivated in how to live life. I once conducted a funeral service for a man who was cherished by one part of the family, but deeply wound other parts of the family. How could his life serve as a motivation? While there is no one perfect in life, save Christ alone, even in one’s hurt and pain there can be a redemptive element to their life. I encouraged one family member, “Perhaps the motivation for you can be that you will not be that kind of parent to your own children.” Issues of forgiveness and abuse can cloud and dampen motivations to be sure, but for people of faith, we believe in a God who redeems and can use all things toward His glory.
M is for Marisa: Last Thoughts
We do well to keep the memory of people. Perhaps you have never considered making it a regular thing to remember someone. Perhaps you have shielded yourself from the emotional and spiritual vulnerability of considering the pain and loss of a loved one. I encourage you to memorialize those whom you have lost. I hope that you can find motivation and inspiration for living your own life, and perhaps by doing so you, too, in turn will become a person that others will be moved to remember for times to come.
Rev. Brad Kenney