Years ago, my husband and I owned a pizza restaurant. Over time, many of our regular customers turned into friends. One couple had suffered the loss of their son in an automobile accident. At the time of his accident, he was a high senior planning to attend college. His parents wanted to honor him and keep his memory alive, so they created a scholarship fund named after their son. Each year, a local student would be awarded the scholarship to cover one year’s tuition at the college their son wanted to attend.
The first year it was easy for them to raise money to fund the scholarship. As the years passed, the challenge grew to fully fund the endeavor. When we first met them, their son had been dead for several years. His high school friends had graduated from college and moved on with their lives. Fewer people were donating to his fund, so the parents held several events each year to raise the scholarship money. The ongoing efforts to raise the funds consumed more and more of their time and prevented the parents from moving forward with their lives. What began as a beautiful gesture to honor their son and bless a student in his name, ended up being a weighted burden to fund raise to meet the obligation.
In my job as a business consultant, I occasionally meet with a client who wants to establish a foundation to provide a scholarship in honor of a deceased loved one. I educate my client on the process of establishing a foundation while stressing the difficulty of sustaining a scholarship over many years. If an individual is independently wealthy, a trust can be set up and the interest used to fund the scholarship. Otherwise, it is an endless process of holding fund raising events and soliciting donations. In these instances, I think back to the family who frequented our pizza restaurant.
Over 50 years ago, my seven-year-old brother passed away due to a congenital heart condition. While my parents were heartbroken over the loss of their first-born son, they were also thankful to God for sending John into our family. John’s life and death drew many of our family members into deeper relationships with God. My parents wanted to honor John’s memory in a way that would glorify God. So, we sold vegetables that we grew and donated the money to build seven churches in Africa and India. The money we raised paid for the building materials, and the members of the churches provided the labor. I will never know the impact of those churches made in the lives of others until I am in Heaven; however, I am quite confident that the church members were blessed and that these churches helped to spread the gospel and point people to Jesus.
I believe my parents’ example offers structure for others who strive to remember their loved ones. The following suggestions will help you step through the process of finding a way to honor someone you have lost.
- Set a fixed goal, rather than a scholarship that will go on into perpetuity. This allows you to have a natural end to your efforts. Our family built one church for each year of my brother’s life.
- Be prepared to work hard. Raising money is hard work, no matter how you raise it. In our case, we grew vegetables and we went door-to-door selling them over two summers. Even if you write letters or hold a GoFund me campaign, you will have to put forth quite a bit of effort to accomplish your goal.
- Raise money by offering a product or service people actually want. The number of people who cared about your loved one, like you did, is not often large enough to annually sustain a revolving fund. Those who did may donate cash, but you will likely have to hold fundraising events and/or sell products to reach your goal.
- Select a memorial that will be long lasting and in line with your loved one’s passions. I know another set of parents who honored their son’s memory by donating a scoreboard for his high school baseball field. Their son was on the baseball team, a scoreboard was within their means without having to raise funds, and his name will be read by all who attend the games for as long as the scoreboard lasts.
It is correct and proper to mourn the loss of your loved one, and it may be right to do something tangible to honor their memory. The first thing you should do is pray. Ask God how He would have you honor your loved one. Then follow these steps to honor them in a way that does not become a burden to you emotionally or financially.
2 thoughts on “Honoring Someone You Lost”
Thanks Susan. I didn’t know that Mom and Dad had used the money to build churches.
I knew that it was used for churches in Africa. In one of her letters to Grandma, Mom mentioned a church that had been build in India. I am hoping as I read more of Mom’s letters to find out the actual countries in which the churches were built.