Rituals. Different cultures have rituals for various life events. There are beautiful, lavish rituals associated with marriage and births. In Latin American culture, a girl’s 15th birthday, her quinceañera, is celebrated as her social debut as a young woman. Rituals abound in many aspects of life, but some of the most powerful rituals are those surrounding death.

I have heard many stories of funerals and celebrations of life after the deaths of children all over the world. Some are small and private and others are big and public. We do what feels right to us in the moment following our culture. For our family, we had a funeral only 5 days after Andy’s death. I wanted a funeral service that honored Andy, one that showed what an amazing kid he was. I wanted it to be full of music which was such a huge part of Andy’s life, and (in a request only Andy would understand) if there was going to be cake, it needed to be lemon.

Today’s guest, Geeti, has experienced some amazing rituals after her son’s death. Geeti’s son, Ruben, was truly a global citizen, identifying with many cultures in his 21 years. He was born to a Swedish mother and lived his first 8 years in New Zealand before the family moved to Australia. After he was killed just over two years ago in a motorbike accident, Ruben’s friends all came and surrounded the family with rituals.

He had friends of the New Zealand native Māori culture who showed their cultural norms. The family took Ruben’s body home, danced in the rain, tore their clothes, and cried out in lament. They covered a cardboard coffin in artwork, placed his body there, and took him to the beach before he went to the crematorium. A few months later, to honor Ruben’s 22nd birthday, Ruben’s family and friends went out to the Australian bush and performed amazing rituals in Ruben’s memory according to the native Australian culture. (You will find the story of the white feather especially powerful.) Even more recently, the family went back to Geeti’s native Sweden and had a gathering to honor Ruben there as well. Each one of these ceremonies has brought Geeti just a little bit of peace and shows us just how healing rituals can be.