CONTENT WARNING: This blog post mentions suicide. Please exercise caution if you are in a sensitive place right now, and contact your mental health professional or Lifeline if this post brings up issues for you.

This week I conducted a memorial service for a young woman who ended her life. She lived near the water, and had a favourite bench where she used to sit and watch the boats bobbing on the water which lapped the shore. In, out. In, and out.

These sorts of funerals are hard. But I think we did her proud.

Her friends organised the funeral service with me. Her family was overseas, and would be having their own service back home, but for her Sydney kin, her chosen family, it was crucial that we do something here.

I received a phone call, two days before the service was scheduled.

“I really don’t know what to do,” her best friend, a young woman, said to me.

“Don’t worry. I do,” I replied.

I went over to the friend’s place and she had gathered the tribe of best friends and colleagues, some on Zoom, some in person. We discussed what to include in a service like this. What did she like? What did she love? What were her passions?

As we chatted, it became clear that she had been a very empathetic, kind and artistic soul. We agreed to make origami boats which people could write messages on and then set out to sea, the same waters that rose and fell in front of her favourite bench. We decided to host the memorial in her favourite park, under a giant fig tree near the water.

She always bought flowers for friends when they were feeling low, so we made sure to tell everyone that flowers were definitely welcome. We put together a board that people could peg photos to, and scattered her own beautiful photos and artworks around the area.

She made jewellery, which was a bit beyond us to replicate to her level of skill. Instead we got a blank sheet on a canvas and brought paint and people could make their handprints, write their names. The shroud would go with her on her final journey. We had a memorial book with pictures of her that people could write messages in for her family, so her parents knew how loved she was so far from home.

We played her favourite songs. We told stories, and read poems.

Before we left her favourite park, her favourite cafe, her favourite view of the sea, we garnered her favourite bench with colour. The flowers tell a story, make a memory, create a bright, defiant riot of love on a rainy Sydney afternoon.

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jackie bailey writes at gmail dot com