How Do You Remember Someone? A Memorial for Our Friend Joe

Joe Obeng, 1970-2013
Joe Obeng, 1970-2013

How do you say goodbye to a friend who has passed away?  Even at age 54, I feel inexperienced and naive about how to properly pay respects as my friends start the long march to heaven.  In the past five months, two of my closest associates are gone.  I have to be ready and want them to be sent off well.

Today we are having the memorial service for Joe Obeng, my company webmaster and close friend, who died on March 29.  Many people are coming and we’ve set up chairs in the yard. My daughter Kate, who seems much better at this than me, had me rent a bunch of chairs and get out big tables. She created a seating area and a shrine, with lots of flowers. On the big table she put blown up photos of Joe, and printed out the obituary I wrote about him when he died.

She gathered pens and papers and made a sign asking people to write down their wishes for Joe in the hereafter, that we can burn in the fire one by one after the service. While there is no minister here, it will be duly solemn occasion, with some laughter and good memories thrown in.  We will share times that we spent with Joe, funny things that we remember about his life and how it affected us, and perhaps we will tell some sad stories that bring out tears.

The closing song Kate chose for the service is Many Rivers to Cross. When I heard Jimmy Cliff singing, I broke down and wept, thinking about my thirteen year friendship with Joe. We went through a lot together, and we spent a lot of time together.

I cried, but that’s ok.  It’s to remember him, and I’m sure my tears would make him happy to be well remembered on his next journey.