Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Importance of Memorial Rituals

It’s the weekend of Memorial Day here in the United States so below is a description of an extraordinary book I’ve been saving for this weekend.

Author Eve Bunting has a knack for writing just the right words to explain the importance of ritual, memorial rituals in particular for the purpose of this blog post. In addition to the picture book described below, I’ve featured several of her books in my Picture Book a Day for a Year list. Two of those are about memorial rituals: I Have an Olive Tree (Day 327 on March 12, 2015) and The Memory String (Day 100 on July 28, 2014).  

I encourage you to get your hands on these books or others which you can find by clicking on the words “memory” or “ritual” in the large list of green search words which is at the bottom of your screen if you are not in phone mode.

Consider planning a program for children, youth, or adults about the importance of remembering the stories, legacies, and sacrifices of significant persons in your faith history. Besides including scriptural or historical heroes, you might want to remember people who have been important in your local faith community. Their stories are worthy of being passed on too.   

Faith communities are a perfect place to engage in conversation about the importance of memorial rituals. There are rituals dating back to the early days of the Hebrew Scriptures. Many Old Testament stories have contexts grounded in remembering those who have died. Children, youth, and some adults, need not only guidance in how to respond during such a ritual, but they need explanations as well. If you can increase the understanding of the universal need for these rituals, their culturally diverse nature, and the respect that is due them all, then you are encouraging the development of more passionate human beings.

Picture Book: The Wall

Author: Eve Bunting

Illustrator: Ronald Himler

Summary: A young boy and his father visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, commonly called The Wall, in Washington D.C. As they search for the boy’s grandfather’s name, the father explains that he was his son’s age when his father died. The boy encounters a disabled vet, a group of students with their teacher, and another young boy whose grandfather is very much alive. The young protagonist responds to these encounters with questions, criticism, and jealousy. Illustrations include other mourners as well as a sample of the many mementos that are commonly left at The Wall. The father and son engage in several rituals common with this memorial including creating a rubbing of the name and leaving a photo of the boy. The book ends with the father explaining that the wall is a place of honor.

Hanna’s Comments: This is a powerful book for children because it offers very specific aspects of memorial rituals and gives some striking illustrations and historical context for one of the world’s most beautiful and unique war memorials. If you want to focus on this particular memorial in your program, then I suggest you supplement your planning with one of the children's biographies of Maya Lin, designer and architect of The Wall, or a more thorough, factual resource such as The Wall: Images and Offerings from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial edited by Sal Lopes.

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Clarion Books, 1990

Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up 

# of Pages: 32

Available in Spanish? Not at present

Formats other than Book: Tablet, Audio Cassette, video on

PBT Category: Pre 2K

Scripture Connections: Descriptions of rituals such as the Passover (Exodus 12:14 & Deuteronomy 16:12); the building of altars such as that built at Rachel’s grave (Genesis 35:19-20); the Eucharist (Matthew 26:26-28)

Idea(s) for Application: As described above, consider using this book to explore the importance of memorial rituals in your faith history and community.

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