I attended a Mormon funeral this morning. An old friend I've known since I first moved to this country buried his wife in a cemetery in Salt Lake City. He'd watched my girls grow up from children in awe of life in the United States to the highly individualistic teenagers they are today.
It was a low key ceremony, as Mormon services tend to be, except for my friend breaking with tradition to some degree. He told a love story of a couple in the third person. The young man wasn't Mormon and was converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after falling in love with a devout young Mormon who believed she was destined to marry someone of her own beliefs.
His speech, which one of his daughters termed "perfect," was indeed a fitting tribute both to his wife and their love for each other, which bore them through trials I cannot imagine, including losing a young adult child to brain cancer. That happened shortly before I met him, and one of the most heartbreaking sights I've experienced in my life in this country is seeing him unbound by grief, open-mouthed in despair as he cried alone in his car at night.
I bring this up because the last weekend I have attended wakes and celebrations of life in people's houses, experiencing how people in Utah gather to grieve and share their memories of their losses, both Mormon and non-Mormon.
One memorial, however, that I was not familiar with was an altar of memories—my description—that I came across in Liberty Park during the winter. It was on one of those utilitarian concrete picnic tables that dot the park.
A dozen or more botánica
candles decorated the table and dried and fake flowers lay around the candles, along with just as many if not more of the kind of candles you find in a Catholic church that you can light as an offering to a loved one's memory. A heart-shaped Valentine's Day balloon on a stick hovered over the table.
There were strange photos that seemed to belong more to an art project than to a tribute to someone's memory. One was a black-and-white pic of an old-fashioned doll in a push pram that could simply have been a child's toy. Another was of a group of kids gazing in awe at a spectacle.
At times as you walked around the table, it felt like a student art collage, at others it seemed more like a pagan celebration of life, with perhaps a voodoo twist. I could imagine all the candles ablaze at night, as group of robed individuals gathered round it, intoned into the night.
So who was this all for? The only clues were two messages.
"I won't forget you -H" and "Love you Mazzy Bear."
If you have information about who Mazzy Bear was, I'd love to know. My direct line at the paper is 801-413-0915.
I walked around Liberty Park with my dog several weekends ago and, inevitably, the table was clear, wiped free of any sign that Mazzy Bear had ever existed.