Anniversaries May 10, 2024


Anniversaries are all around us every day. We celebrate weddings, births, and life’s milestones with friends and loved ones. We memorialize dates and times of tragedy, loss, and death with gatherings of like-minded people to grieve and remember. So why do we do it? Why do we remember things from the past with reverence and sometimes horror?

Anniversary & Milestones

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Birthdays, especially when we’re young, are unexpected days of joy. But as we age, they become a reminder for some of how short life really is.

Birth & Birthdays

None of us remembers our own birth. The brain is not developed enough to hold the memory chip yet. But the people around us help us remember in a collective memory. As we grow, we’ll hear all about how Aunt Sadie “brought a bundt cake to the hospital for the doctors and nurses,” or how “Uncle Harold brought a box of cigars for the men standing in the waiting room and proceeded to light up—setting off the fire alarm and security scrambling.” Many of us will see pictures of people we don’t know surrounding us and the cake with a single candle, all prompting us to “blow out the candle.” We sit there, looking left or right amid all the activity, with a confused look on our faces.

As we grow, there are more pictures or videos with a different version of the cake, surrounded by many of the same faces—some new, some missing. The new faces are usually new friends or relatives; the ones missing are many times of people who have passed or are no longer able to venture out to the celebration. But one thing always remains. There is care, respect, and love for the person blowing out the candles.

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When we graduate, we move from one form of life into another. We move from someone in need to someone who is expected to have mastery over whatever they have graduated from. For many, this can be a tough adjustment.

Graduations & Weddings

We live through graduations and weddings. They can vary from huge celebrations to bitter-sweet milestones. The graduate and couple marrying will look back on how they got to where they are on that special day. The parents, friends, and relatives will look back wistfully, remembering the beginning of the journey and all the stepping stones that brought everyone to that day. Graduations and weddings are a big marker of beginning—new careers to be had, new lives to create, new horizons to explore. But they are also the end of an era. One that sometimes the caretakers and those close to the people moving on are not ready to face yet. Change, age, anniversaries—are inevitable.

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Weddings are happy occasions for the couple being married. But sometimes it’s bitter-sweet for the parents and family being left behind.


No one wants to live through or be a part of a tragedy, but we all will. They are sometimes national or worldwide, and sometimes personal or family-contained. One thing is certain: tragedies are always marked with loss. Loss of freedom, loss of innocence, loss of life. We hear the words “9-11,” “Covid Pandemic,” or “Ukraine/Gaza” and our minds immediately go to a quiet inner place of sorrow, pain, or contemplation. On a closer-to-home plane, people (many times of a certain age) hear, “I lost my parent,” or I lost my child, spouse, best friend” and they recede into that same quiet place.

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For many anniversaries, all we have to do is mention a single word or date. All the emotions, memories, and feelings come flooding back over us like the event was happening to us all over again.

There are two ways of dealing with a tragedy. One is to shut everyone out and suffer in silence. Many times, people think, “I don’t want to burden someone else with what I’m going through.” Or they might try to convince themselves, “It’s not that bad. Other people have had the same loss, and they seem fine. I just need to buck up, pull up my big (boy/girl) pants, and soldier on.” Or worse yet, they don’t think anyone cares if they do let out what they are feeling. They don’t have a community to count and lean on.

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Anniversaries of death are tough. Memories flood back, and we often relive the good and the bad.

The other way of dealing is to remember the loss and be with others. Others who will at least understand why this is a tragedy to you. This is why we have funerals; by having large gatherings, we memorialize not just the day and the tragedy, but the people involved in it. We have a group—and personal time—to be with the event again, hopefully, to see how far we have come, how we have survived, and how we have overcome (to whatever extent) since the event. The key here is we are with like-minded and open-hearted people. They come in mourning and in love to be together with people who have also faced tragedy.

On a Personal Note

I have definitely hit the midpoint age where I’m having a balanced amount of happy anniversaries and memorials of tragedy. My wife and I will be celebrating a milestone wedding anniversary this year, and I will (God willing) be ordained as a Permanent Deacon in the local Catholic Diocese in 2026. I will also have my next books published in the years to come and enjoy doing things with my wife. Things like travel, gardening, and redoing an old house.

My wife and I have also survived the anniversaries of loss. I lost both my parents and my wife—her mother and a sister. I lost a career I dearly loved to tongue cancer, and after having a little over half of my tongue removed, am celebrating four years and eight months without cancer’s reemergence to the day as I write this. I will have another battery of tests done on the fifth anniversary of its removal and will have another milestone in my life—being able to say I am officially “cancer-free.”


I am also celebrating another anniversary of sorts: this is my 50th column for Patheos. With that, I get to look back. I’ve tried to be honest to myself and to you in opening up what’s inside the “Reflections in [this] Knight.” I have been blessed with a lot of comments from you and cherish every single one. They show me that I am getting through and making people think, connect, and contemplate. If you haven’t seen any of the previous columns, or have missed one, you can click here: Ben Bongers KM, Author at Reflections in the Knight (, or go to https://www. and look up my name or the column, “Reflections in the Knight.” Let me know what you think.

About Ben Bongers KM
Ben Bongers was an international operatic tenor and practicing sommelier for 30 years based in San Francisco, CA, and Europe. He has written monthly articles for trade magazines in wine and singing over a long and lustrous career. After becoming a semi-full-time caretaker for his parents, he earned an MA in Gerontology (the study of aging and care) and was asked to publish in an eldercare textbook in 2020. He has written several books, all published by EnRoute Books and Media. His first novel, THE SAINT NICHOLAS SOCIETY, has won many awards, and his other two, TRUE LOVE—12 Christmas Stories My True Love Gave to Me, and THE FARMER, THE MINER, THE ARTISAN (a children’s book) are both up for writing awards. Ben is a Knight in the Order of Malta and helped start an overnight homeless shelter at his San Francisco, CA parish. Today, he is a Permanent Diaconate Candidate in Kansas City, MO. You can read more about the author here.

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