Thanksgiving is once again just around the corner, bringing with it all the pomp and circumstance of the holiday season. This time of year, everywhere you look, you’re reminded to be thankful for everything you have… Facebook friends sharing their “30 days of thankfulness.” Your pastor reminding you of the Reason for the season. Even just driving around your town and taking notice of those who are less fortunate than you can really cause you to take pause in a moment of sincere gratitude.
No one is arguing that this isn’t a wonderful reminder, of course. It’s a great thing to take a step back and examine all the good stuff going on in your life, at least every once in a while… caring family and friends, a secure job, a loving church family, or even just the fact that you have a roof over your head and food on the table. Being thankful has actually been scientifically proven to boost levels of happiness: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier
But when you are grieving the loss of someone who’s recently passed (or maybe it wasn’t so recent), this annual reminder to give thanks for all you have can seem almost like an insult. Who is anyone to compel you into such feelings of thankfulness when you are in the midst of grieving? How can you even try to fathom this feeling of thankfulness when you are wrapped in feelings of sorrow and despair?
The more I think about it, the more I think that the reason it seems so impossible to do, is because grief is quite the opposite of thanksgiving.
I’m not saying that if you’re grieving it means you aren’t thankful. But maybe it’s very difficult to be thankful for what you have now, when you are focused so much on what you no longer have (the person who’s passed away). Just maybe, practicing thankfulness for what was, instead of what is (that is, the loss you are currently feeling), can help your mind turn its focus from the good that has been taken away from you, and refocus onto the fact that you once had that good. All the good times - all the good memories - you had with this person who was (and will always be) so very much loved.
If you’re bereaved and struggling to find an attitude of gratitude this Thanksgiving, you are not alone. Don’t try to fight your feelings, just accept them and accept yourself for feeling them. After all, you wouldn’t be grieving if you’d never loved the person who has passed, and if they’d never loved you in return… as C.S. Lewis once said, “The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That’s the deal.”
So if all you can be thankful for this Thanksgiving is the memories, be thankful for that. Don’t try to fight your grief. It’s real, it’s the consequence of love, and you are allowed to take as much time as you need to sort through it.
"Grief. The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That's the deal." -C.S. Lewis
When you’re grieving the loss of a loved one who has just passed away, they and the impact they had on your life are all you can think about. All the precious memories, happy times, not-so-happy times, and everything else comes flooding back out of your memory bank and into your heart, leaving you little else room to think and sometimes even breath. When you’re tasked with giving the eulogy at their funeral, on top of that, life can be a little complicated for a few days… Now you’ve got to somehow take all those memories, climb up out of your personal emotions surrounding them, and write something coherent enough that can be understood and cherished by all those who will be attending the funeral.
Needless to say, it can be a daunting job. But as with so much else hard (but worth doing) in life, all you have to do is start.
You see, as you begin get your thoughts together on paper, one by one, the stories and memories you really want to share begin to paint the picture of the relationship you had with your loved one. You begin to really think about the flow of your speech, because you’ll want it to sound consistent and articulate to your listeners.
When you’re writing, sometimes it can really help to see an example. Eulogies by Aubrey has three right here on our website for you to look over and consider.
If you find that you’re really struggling with your thoughts and feel that you could use some extra guidance, check out our free eulogy template right here. It’s a great tool to have if you’re having trouble getting your thoughts in the right order, because it provides you with a structure for your eulogy while still allowing for complete personalization. If you need help filling it out or have any other questions or concerns, just send us a message here and we will be happy to assist you.
And of course Eulogies by Aubrey is always on standby ready to write your eulogy for you, should you decide that you would benefit most from our professional service. We have created a simple question-and-answer platform in which you can quickly and easily provide the information needed for us to create a 100% custom eulogy written in you own voice and style. We are honored to be of service.
“If a man can bridge the gap between life and death, if he can live on after he’s dead, then maybe he was a great man.” -James Dean
James Dean was a Hollywood actor, professional car racer, and undisputed icon of 1950s America. He was a teen heartthrob in his own right and a star whose name and image, to this day, represents coming-of-age angst and frustration. Though he lived only 24 years, the impact he had on his contemporaries, and pop culture as a whole, continues on.
EARLY LIFE, EDUCATION and CAREER
James Byron Dean was born February 8th, 1931 in Marion, Indiana, in the apartment where his parents lived. His father Winton came from a farming background, but dreamed of pursuing a career in dentistry, and so moved his wife and son to Santa Monica, California. As a young child, Dean was very close to his mother, Mildred, but when he was only 9 years old, the family lost her to cancer.
After Mildred’s death, Winton was not able to properly care for his son and sent Dean back to Indiana to live with an aunt and uncle. After graduating from high school there in 1949, he moved back to California to live once again with his father and new stepmother.
He initially chose to study law at Santa Monica College, but against his father’s wishes, changed his mind and enrolled at UCLA to study drama. His first acting “gig” was there at UCLA, when he was selected among a large pool of auditioners to play the lead role in “Macbeth.” Ultimately, James Dean did not graduate, but left college to pursue acting full-time.
As a young newcomer in Hollywood, Dean was determined but had a hard time finding good roles. He was cast as the beloved disciple in a television Easter special, and also got a few bit parts here and there. He was not one to give up, however, and enrolled at the famed Actors Studio under the guidance of legendary theater practitioner Lee Strasberg. His big break finally came in 1953, when he was cast a major role in Elia Kazan’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden.”
If 1953 was a good year, 1955 was the year James Dean became a household name. He was cast the starring role in the much-anticipated “Rebel Without a Cause,” in which he played an emotionally-distraught teenager opposite Natalie Wood. Not wanting that role to be the cornerstone of his entire career, he took on a major role in the film “Giant,” opposite Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor.
Although both films were released to critical acclaim, sadly, James Dean would never see either movies’ premiere.
Following production of “East of Eden,” Dean had decided to pursue a side career as a race car driver. He bought a couple of vehicles and entered into several races, excelling at them all. On September 30th, 1955, he was highway driving his new Porsche 550 Spyder (infamously named “Little Bastard”) to a race he was scheduled to compete in in Salinas. When a Ford turned left at a corner at an intersection just ahead of him, James Dean wasn’t able to hit the breaks in time, and a terrible collision ensued. The other driver survived, but Dean was mortally wounded, and taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was only 24. Interestingly, the junction at Highways 41 and 46 where he was killed no longer exists in its original state, but is now simply a pasture. In 2005, the location where he died was renamed the James Dean Memorial Junction.
His funeral was held on October 8, 1955 in his home state of Indiana, and was attended by hundreds of mourners. Thousands more paid their respects outside the Fairmount Friends Church where the service was held. He is interred at Park Cemetery in the City of Fairmount. In 1983, his original grave stone was stolen, and replaced by the one seen in this photo.
James Dean's grave, Park Cemetery in Fairmount, Indiana
LITTLE BASTARD'S "CURSE"
It’s a pop culture rumor that the Porsche James Dean was killed in is cursed. This rumor started in 1956 when the original buyer of Dean’s totaled car put it on display and used the “curse” to draw people in to see it. In any case, whether it be due to a curse or the mighty power of suggestion, others who have since owned the car or even original components of it were said to suffer behind-the-wheel accidents. In 1959, a garage housing the car caught fire, and to this day the cause is unknown. In 1960, the car mysteriously vanished.
Although his life was tragically short, James Dean’s contributions to cinema and pop culture continued to impact other young stars in their rise to fame in the years and decades following his death. Elvis Presley himself thought of Dean as a role model in many ways, so much so that he modeled his own image and career in Hollywood after the late actor. “I know by heart all the dialogue of James Dean’s films. I could watch ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ a hundred times over,” he once said. When asked about comparisons of himself to Dean in the media, Presley famously replied, “I would never compare myself in any way to James Dean, because James Dean’s a genius.”
Other stars, including Elizabeth Taylor, were impacted greatly by Dean and his short-lived career. Taylor once stated, “He was a very intelligent young man. I loved him…if it was just the two of us, he became very introspective and told me some things that just blew my mind.” Natalie Wood, with whom Dean starred in “Rebel Without a Cause,” said in a 1974 interview, “He was very aware of the fact that he was a star. There was no escaping it. Eyes were on him.”
James Dean was the first actor to ever receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination.
Thank you for reading about James Dean and his famous grave! I hope you enjoyed. Return here soon for more of our Famous Graves series (I so enjoy writing them!) In the meantime, if you want to learn more about Dean’s life and death, here are some links that may be of interest to you: