By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Jack and Bob

Last weekend our family and a few friends gathered together in our home for a Celebration of Life for Alan.  Which meant a lot of celebrating occurred and I’m operating on little sleep and lots of emotions as I write this.  The invitation to the event included a photo of Alan teeing off on his favorite hole on his favorite course in Sun Valley, Idaho.  Relatives came from far and wide.  In fact, I’m not even sure I’m related to some of these people.  To get the party started we had a family BBQ on Friday night, which involved a lot of laughter, some good-natured ribbing, loud singing (mostly on key), and some tears.  It was also an opportunity to celebrate my niece Shelley’s milestone birthday. 

Shelley and family


I had decided more than a year ago that this might be a good birthday for me to pass down the family diamond to her.  The diamond was originally given to my great-grandmother in 1892 and has normally been passed down upon the death of the owner.  But I believe that it’s good to give things away while you’re still alive to see the person’s reaction to receiving it.  She was genuinely surprised, and seeing her reaction was a moment I would not have missed. I know she will wear the diamond in the tradition of strong women in our family.

          The cookie

Alan’s Celebration of Life party on Saturday was everything I could have wished for.  Usually after an event I’ve hosted I find some flaw – something I could have done better or differently.  But not this.  As I went to bed Saturday night, I honestly thought the night had gone perfectly; I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  Even the weather cooperated as the predicted strong winds didn’t occur.  The flowers were phenomenal, the food was outstanding, and everyone enjoyed the special touches of napkins and cookies that reflected the theme of “Until We Tee It Up Again”.  Of course, what made the day most special were the wonderful tributes paid to Alan by his children, Colin and Wendy, son-in-law Steve, and my brothers, Jack and Bob.  Everyone depicted Alan accurately.  He was funny, a prankster, enjoyed music and the outdoors, and was a master cheater at board games.  But most importantly what came through in those tributes is their love for him and their knowledge that he returned that love in full measure.  I wrote a eulogy that touched on his humorous antics, his remarkable achievements, and the wonderful times we shared together.  The event was filled with love and laughter, and I know that is exactly what he wanted.

        The family

I have been asked why it took me so long to have this Celebration of Life.  After all, Alan died July 28th, so it’s been a long time as these things go. What I didn’t realize before I became a widow is that the loss of a spouse shakes the very foundation of your life.  Everything – absolutely everything – is changed, from the moment you awaken in the morning to the moment to go to sleep at night.  I’m sure I could have arranged a Celebration directly after his death, with a lot of help from family and friends.  But it wouldn’t have been the same.  All of us family members have now had eight months to reflect on him and his life.  All of us who spoke about him were able to do so with some humor – which was his hallmark trait – and that would not have been possible in the first days after he died.  Now, we are all able to put his life, and death, into some perspective.  I chose a date close to his birthday and actually enjoyed planning the event and thinking about what he would have liked, right down to having pineapple upside down cake, which was his favorite birthday cake.

So, to all the people who questioned why I waited so long I say this: good things come to those who wait.  Should you ever find yourself in the unenviable position of having to plan a Celebration of Life, do what YOU feel is best.  Throw tradition and what is “normally” done out the window, unless that fits with your desires.  I’m so glad I did, and I know that Alan is looking down, happy that his Celebration was such a fun – and funny – gathering. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.