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Loved ones' ashes become jewelry to soothe grief

Staff writer

Florence relief postmaster Suzan “Lynn” Stroup understands just how devastating the loss of a loved one can be, but she found something as small as pinch of ashes contained within a special necklace helped ease her sorrow and soothe her grief.

Stroup lost her mother, Hildegard Price, to breast cancer in 2002. A decade later, she lost her dad, Lenard. Before that, in 1986, her first husband was killed in a car wreck leaving her a widow with children at 23.

“Death is a hard subject and everyone grieves differently, but I reached a realization,” Stroup said. “Death is something that can also be a beautiful thing. It’s the transition that’s the hardest.”

Back then, she didn’t have to time to prepare for her husband’s death, however necklaces containing portions of her parents’ ashes helped Stroup work through tough times.

“When we lost mom, I was devastated,” Stroup said. “Before she died, we were really close. Even though we were distanced by many miles, we talked all the time.”

As personal and private memorial, Stroup keeps a portion of her mother’s ashes in a Celtic cross forged from gold and silver that has a traditional Celtic knot pattern etched into it.

A caring friend who knew Hildegard was cremated sent Stroup the cross as a gift because she knew their Irish heritage and that Hildegard collected Celtic crosses during her life.

“In my early stages of grief, I wore it continuously, and it really helped to have a piece of mom with me wherever I went,” Stroup said. “As time went by I was able to let go, and I wore it less and less.”

Now, Stroup wears the necklace on birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and other special family occasions.

“I can’t go without mom on my birthday,” Stroup said. “Dad is always near, too.”

Before her father died, the last gift he gave her was a pair of silver heart earrings, so Stroup chose to honor Lenard’s memory by storing a portion of his ashes inside a heart necklace she hangs on an American flag display case, next to a picture of him as a young military man in uniform.

The necklaces were a practical and personal way for her to seek comfort after her parents died, she said.

In the past, when people noticed her necklaces, she explained that it was her way to keep her parents close at all times. The sharing process was reassuring to her because most people were receptive to her heartache.

“It’s hard to let go and the most difficult thing about a traditional funeral is walking away from their grave at the cemetery,” Stroup said. “It may seem macabre to some, but with a necklace, you aren’t walking away. You have a tangible piece of your loved one right there with you if you need it.”

Now years after losing four loved ones, including her sister, and being happily remarried, she again faces funeral preparations.

“My husband Richard has severe coronary heart decease,” Stroup said. “In consideration of his health, we were advised to prepare for his passing.”

As part of preparations, Richard requested cremation, so that all his family members can keep a portion of his ashes in jewelry too.

“It’s become a family tradition,” Stroup said. “The girls will keep a part of their father in a cross or a cross/heart necklace, while the boys each plan to keep his ashes in a golf ball shaped pendent, because one of Richard’s passions is golf and the boys all shared that with him.”

Stroup said family members picked designs that tied them each other.

“One grandson chose a train pendant because he knows grandpa drove a train,” Stroup said.

Their nine children and 22 grandchildren are scattered all over the United States, so cremation and cremation jewelry made sense to them because it would be difficult for everyone to visit Richard in a specific resting place.

When her time comes, Stroup’s sons have chosen trains for their mom, because she was the first woman in her division to work for the railroad. Her daughters chose miniature cakes necklaces because they have fond memories of baking cakes together.

“My sons said they were proud of their momma for making it in a tough man’s world,” Stroup said. “My daughters told me they were happy that I was old school enough to still bake cakes.”

Last modified Jan. 15, 2015

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