Sky Lanterns: The Ritual of Honoring and Welcoming (That Ended in Disaster)

In honor of my Grandma Rose’s passing, Mel agreed to participate in a ritual of honoring and releasing with me where we set free sky lanterns again.  The last time we did this, it was an absolutely beautiful release of our wishes into the world, so I couldn’t think of a better way to memorialize the one-year anniversary of her death.

For the ceremony, we decided to each create a sky lantern where one side would be an honoring of present and passing lives and the other side would be a welcoming of new gifts.

Immediately, this time was different from the last in that Mel’s adorable little children were not quite ready for bedtime. In the pictures below, what you don’t see are the tiny hands, feet and voices in the background and Mel trying to coerce her little people back into their beds.


Despite challenging artistic circumstances, we persisted, however. On the honoring side, I drew symbols that represented the paths I have been on throughout the last couple of years, in addition to a rose for my grandma (also my middle name) and a set of hands, “pressing palm to palm” (sort of). The idea came from Mel and I talking about how friendship is like a palm-to-palm touch.


Mel’s lantern (to the right in this image) shows the joy and sorrow in life both growing roots of love underneath the surface of a garden of flowers.


My welcoming side (Mel wasn’t as much into hers- but you can see it below) was inspired by an image that came to me from my friend Megan during a spiritual practice group at our seminary. In group, we had talked about practicing meditation (or prayer depending upon your preference) with palms open instead of closed as a way to welcome what is coming in as opposed to closing off to the world. She found this image in the stained glass in the room after the conversation that inspired me.


Interference continued when we went outside to set our lanterns free. Mel’s little comrade appeared at the door as we struggled to get the lanterns lit. As they started to fill, we realized that the markers we had used had caused little tears in the paper that kept them from filling, so I ran inside to get tape in an attempt to stop the paper lantern from catching on fire as it wilted.

Finally, despite a crying child and a damaged lantern, we were able to get her creation up into the sky.




Unfortunately, it did not go far. I believe my first words were, “Oh, —-!  Are we going to catch the forest on fire!”

Mel has a wooded area behind her house, and with the lack of wind and damaged lanterns, it just didn’t clear the trees.

Fortunately, no damage was caused, and we decided to try again with my lantern- despite Mel’s extreme hesitance. Let’s just say it didn’t go well.

Of course, because of the symbolic nature of the exercise, it was tempting to feel like this was a sign of our defeat in some way.

However, somehow afterward we got a few minutes where Mel’s little one was in his room and the two of us just fell down on the ground and stared at the star-filled sky for awhile. In the end, I felt assured that all was as it should be.


How do you honor and welcome transitions in life?

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