What I Am Doing to Honor My Loved One

03 Dec 2019 - Liz Pires/Megan Szabo

Like any other parent who finds themselves in the tragic situation of losing a child and being immediately inducted into the club that no parent wants to be a part of, I was in shock.

I felt helpless and was in total disbelief that this happened. My son had lost a friend to a drug overdose a couple of months before. And we had heard about so many others who lost their lives to the opioid crisis. We never imagined it would happen to us.

It’s a parent’s nature to do what they can to help their children. So naturally, when you get the call that no parent ever wants to get, you immediately shift into problem solving mode and start rushing around, trying to figure out what you should be doing to help your child. Then, suddenly, you realize there is nothing you can do to help them. They have been taken from you prematurely. It is a very surreal moment.

Another pivotal moment was the sad realization that after the dust settles, everyone else’s life goes back to normal. But, ours does not. In fact, it is forever changed.

After I had a chance to come to terms with this, compose myself and get off my pity-pot, I felt compelled to find the meaning and purpose behind my daughter’s short life. Losing a child is not something you are ever prepared for. Simply put, children are supposed to outlive their parents.

I was drawn to do something meaningful to honor my daughter. There are so many unanswered questions. You come to the realization that you have been cheated out of all future normal life events, including graduations, marriage, grandkids, etc. And while there is nothing I can do to change my new reality, it is important to keep her memory alive. She was a shining light that we learned a lot from and we feel extremely fortunate to have had the time with her that we did.

Here are some of the legacy projects I’m working on to honor my daughter Megan.

Our Legacy Projects to Honor Megan

  1. Playlist: Solicited input from her friends and family to create a music playlist of her favorite songs and artists and shared it with everyone.

  2. Favorites: Curated a list of her favorite things so you think of her when you eat her favorite foods like pasta, sushi/salmon or macaroons, or smell lavender, lemons or roses. Doing things she enjoyed like going to the movies, shopping, going to the beach, doing yoga, taking long scented baths or burning candles. Experiencing things she was into like astrology, weather, full moons, crystals, her favorite holiday, and her undeniable love for animals.

  3. Shrine: We all created a dedicated space at home and made a shrine of her things that tells her story of the short time we did have with her and the impact she made on us.

  4. Star: She was our shining star and loved the moon and stars. I named a star after her so she has a permanent place in the universe. It’s comforting to know that we can all connect with her no matter where we are.

  5. Animals: Megan’s love for animals was matched only by her hatred of cruelty against them. We set up a fund to allow people to donate in her name to honor her spirit and help fight animal cruelty with Austin Pets Alive!. Also, immediately following graduation, Megan planned to go to South Africa to volunteer in a monkey and wildlife rehabilitation center. For her 25th birthday, we are scheduling a family trip there to honor her wishes.

  6. Books: The grandfather of one of Megan’s friends is a fiction author. When he heard about our tragic loss, he was writing a fiction book about drug addiction and the opioid crisis that has infected America. He asked for my help with research. I was honored to be able to help, and I wrote a dedication to my daughter in his book, A Dead Person. Fiction too serves a purpose in educating people. He wanted to ensure there was a factual basis for important elements in his story, including using the correct street names for drugs and informing the public how drugs are filtered into the United States. I had also started writing my own book before engaging in the one above. My book is more of a memoir that chronicles the years that led up to the tragic ending of a life lost too soon. Hindsight is always 20/20, but I wanted to share my experiences in an effort to help other parents who may be unfamiliar with addiction, who may not know addiction is a brain disease. I wanted to help them spot the red flags and alert them what to be aware of that could indicate their child has the disease of addiction. My goal is to prevent another heartbreaking, senseless death.

  7. Videos: Convert all of the VHS videos we had taken of her growing up to digital to preserve those memories and more easily share with others.

  8. Crystals: Megan loved crystals and had a special collection. Since she also loved roses and pink was her favorite color, I thought it was fitting to offer rose quartz to all who attended her celebration of life as a way to remember her. Rose quartz is known as the love stone. It is very high energy, helping to attract unconditional love and restore trust and harmony. Rose quartz brings compassion, kindness and forgiveness and promotes deep inner healing and feelings of peace and harmony. Remember to put your crystals outside when there is a full moon to cleanse and charge them!

  9. Counseling: This is an important part of being able to process grief in a healthy manner and become a better person despite the permanent hole in your heart. Try different options until you find one that works for you. It takes time and is ongoing. Don’t beat yourself up. Do take time for self-care. You have been through the most devastating thing that can happen to a parent, the ultimate tragedy.

    Megan really enjoyed and benefited from Reiki. I also counseled with Jona Genova who was Megan’s energy and crystal healer. I found Jona amazing and would highly recommend her.

  10. Jewelry: Megan was a jewelry fiend! It was only natural to have jewelry pieces made to honor her. I had a ring made from the pink roses from her celebration of life. Pink was her favorite color. I also had a gold pendant made from her fingerprint. And, I found out there was this amazing thing called cremation jewelry where a true artisan hand makes jewelry pieces from your child’s ashes. Each piece is as unique as the person. I had a bracelet made for my Mom and myself and I also had a necklace made. I always wear a piece of special jewelry so she is with me at all times.

  11. Diamond: A girl’s best friend. What more can I say? Megan was about to graduate high school and had sent me a photo of a pair of earrings she wanted for graduation. They were cushion cut with smaller diamonds surrounding the main stone. She had an obsession with diamonds! And, she loved the color pink. So, needless to say, the day I found myself in a dreary funeral home, a place I wasn’t supposed to be, making plans for my daughter’s end of life, and I learned that you could make diamonds from a loved ones ashes or hair, I knew immediately that is what we were going to do to honor her. The urns looked so depressing, and I knew she didn’t belong on a shelf. She was young and vibrant and deserved to be shown off!

  12. Yoga: Megan loved yoga and we had talked about doing it together, but sadly didn’t get the chance.

Our Next Chapter, and Continuing Her Legacy

When you lose a child, your world is instantly turned upside down. It started with her death in March. Then in April my husband was no longer able to do his job. I lost my job in June. Then we were forced to sell our home in July. Following that, we had to put her first dog down in August. 2018 was the worst year of our lives. It shook us to the core and made us stop and reflect on what’s important.

Megan was a free spirit, a creative type who hated the fact that I worked in the corporate world and wasn’t more available for her. My husband and I also decided we wanted to do something together to give back to the community. And, it was important that we do something to honor Megan. We spent a year looking at numerous business opportunities, but nothing resonated until we learned about YogaSix.

We weren’t necessarily thinking fitness, but yoga is something Megan enjoyed, which we could do together, which would allow us to contribute to the community and which would improve people’s lives!

Yoga has been around for 5,000 years and created boutique fitness as we know it. YogaSix offers a truly unique and modern approach to yoga that is changing the way people think about and experience yoga. The brand promotes accessibility and believes everyone deserves the mind-body benefits of yoga. The methodology is to provide a consistent but creative experience for each of the six class types every time. And, they all deliver life-enhancing benefits. Whether you are looking for strength, agility, or flexibility and balance, YogaSix has a yoga fit for you.

Currently, we are planning to open up three YogaSix studios over the next two years and will make it our life’s work to honor our daughter.

Personally, I have found that doing various legacy projects to honor my daughter has been therapeutic and healing. I find it helpful to have tangible ways to process my grief and would recommend others explore what speaks to them to honor their loved one and help with their own healing.

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