It was such an honor to be called upon to plan a celebration of life for a woman as special as Janet Sage! Over the course of nine days, I worked closely with Janet's son John and his assistant Paola to bring to reality John's vision for a celebration of his mom's life. This memorial involved remotely connecting guests from across the country, so the planning process had an extra and very important element to take into consideration. I am so grateful for Paola's tenacious work in managing the A/V side of planning this event while I focused on taking care of John's creative wishes. She really worked some magic in making things happen on short notice!
Designing for this memorial was really a joyous experience. A theme emerged quickly as John described his mom's life, loves, and personality while the planning process unfolded. I learned about Janet's colorful wardrobe and penchant for costumes, her love of birthdays (especially her own), and how she was an early outspoken supporter of LGBTQ rights and inclusivity in honor of her son Jeff, who died of AIDS in 1993. John expressed in our first conversation that he wanted a photo slideshow of his mom set to the song She's A Rainbow by The Rolling Stones, as a nod to both that colorful wardrobe and her reverence for the LGBTQ community- so using all of the colors of the rainbow in her memorial design was a natural choice! What a delight it was to work with so many beautiful colors, and that it was all in honor of a woman who was blessed to live a full and contented life- well that was the icing on the cake.
Speaking of cake- I also learned that Janet really loved a good cake...especially birthday cake, and especially her own birthday cake! I haven't yet mentioned that we set the date for Janet's celebration of life for her 89th birthday- and her 67th wedding anniversary! Janet left behind few suggestions for her memorial service, but she did specifically ask for cake - white cake with white frosting, just like her wedding cake.
And so... there was cake! Lots of little cakes, with sprinkles in the colors of the rainbow, covering a whole table, styled as if it was for a birthday party, with one little cake set aside in honor of the birthday girl. Planning this was such a joy for me because this is what Epic Memorials is all about - finding thoughtful little ways to symbolically represent who our honoree was in life. I'm told Janet would have loved it- all of it... but especially the cake!
From the beginning of the planning process, Janet really spoke to my bereaved mama heart, her having also tragically lost a young son. I felt a kinship with her as I absorbed myself in her life with the goal of capturing the essence of a woman I'd never met. It wasn't until the ceremony when Janet's grandson Nicholas spoke of his grandmother that I truly learned how remarkable of a woman Janet was.
Nick lovingly recounted how deeply committed Janet was to the LGBTQ community after learning her son was not only gay but also HIV positive. I marveled over the story of her walking out of a bible study meeting, never to return, after the church community she belonged to proved it was not interested in meeting her standards of inclusivity. Janet found a new church and went on to lead that community in modernizing its stance on members of the LGBTQ community- and then did it all over again when she joined a new church after moving to Washington! My heart swelled with respect for her as Nick eloquently shared this part of Janet's history, and I instantly recognized myself in her story. From what I've witnessed in my experience with bereaved parents, it's those of us who channel our pain into helping others that seem to thrive the most after such a life-altering loss. Janet focused her mama love and power of resilience on her son's friends and community, and I focus mine on assisting my grieving clients during a very tender time in their lives. This is how I thrive.
I'll never forget Janet for having provided me with such an inspirational story of how one woman can make a difference in the world! May the ripples of love born of her efforts continue for infinity. Rest peacefully, dear Janet!
*additional photos of Janet's celebration of life may be seen in our portfolio!
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