Holiday Memories

Holiday Memories
2001-graduationaScott Laschober

Every year, since my children were born, they received a couple of ornaments as keepsakes.  They were put in a separate ornament box, for them when they were grown and had their own homes.  After Scott died, we had ornaments from his 22 years.  We purchased a small artificial tree, which we put up every year just for Scott’s ornaments.  As I decorate the “Scott Tree”, I remember his life, and some of the history behind his ornaments.  Every night, as I pass his tree on my way to bed, I say “Good night, Scott.”
June Laschober, in memory of Scott Laschober

I lost my donor husband, Glenn, 6 years ago.  The holidays can drag on and on.  My daughter and I try to spend time doing something for others such as shopping for an adopted school or family.  Any “new” traditions are appreciated since the “old” ways are not an option anymore.  My daughter is expecting a baby girl in February, almost the same day as Glenn’s birthday. I am writing a children’s book about “Grandpa Glenn” so my new granddaughter will have some sense of her Grandpa in heaven.
– Kathy Atteberry, in memory of Glenn Atteberry

I always do something special on the anniversary of Don’s last day.  He loved life and left so quickly.  I was lucky that Don was in the media and had lots of friends and fans.  This year I made a photo album with Shutterfly on their website.  The album contained pictures of Don’s fun adventures.  I shared it on my FaceBook for all to remember him which helps me get through these difficult times. I had so many kind responses about what a wonderful person he was. 
– Kathy Corey, in memory of Don Corey

Every year, my wife Pattie would insist that the whole family gather round the old box TV and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.” You know, “Teacher says, every time a bell rings…” At Christmas time 1996, our middle child, Dana, who was 16 at the time, had a horrific car accident and was fighting for her life. After four days, she was declared brain dead and we made the decision to let her live on by donating her organs to others.  As we were saying our final goodbyes, one of us decided we should ring a bell because our angel, Dana, was getting her wings. The closest thing we could get was a non ringing tree ornament in the shape of a bell, but our voices provided the “dings.” We still watch “It’s a Wonderful Life,” every year, but now it has a new significance. “Teacher says…”
– Bob Spencer, in memory of Dana Spencer

jessica-patekJessica Patek

In 2004 we lost our 16-year-old daughter, Jessica, in a tragic car accident.  One of our favorite family treats has always been decorated sugar cookies at Christmas time.  We would always make Santa’s, snowmen, candy canes and other assorted holiday shapes and decorate them in great detail.  Sometimes they were too pretty to eat (but that never stopped us).  After we lost Jessica, a dear friend, knowing that I liked to bake, bought me a ribbon shaped cookie cutter.  So now as part of our Christmas cookie trays we always have these huge “Green Ribbon Cookies” which everyone loves.  I know it is just a cookie, but it really does help me get through the holidays and it reminds us all of Jessica and what a gift she gave.
– Kerry Patek, in memory of Jessica Patek

When going through my husband’s office, I found a folder where he had listed his favorite foods, childhood memories, teachers and holidays.  He had listed Thanksgiving as the holiday he enjoyed the most.  Not surprising, Paul loved to cook and being able to have the family together always brought a huge smile on his face.  He had the timer set on the oven at 4 am, knew when the turkey was cooked to perfection and made sure that we had prepared enough food to send the Mom’s home with leftovers.  Also on the menu, was his delicious homemade turkey and rice soup, he just had to get all the meat off of those bones.  Paul died in April of 2004 and our two oldest children, Dawn and Jeffrey, have taken over the duties of preparing Thanksgiving and keeping the tradition alive.  Jeffrey is also making the soup, just like his Dad.  I have to admit, those first couple years were tough but the hole in your heart does get smaller as time goes.  You never get over the loss, you learn to live with it.
– Carol Ann Trauth, in memory of Paul Trauth

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about Tom.  I honor his memory by staying in touch with my step-children and grandchildren. I’ve moved to Florida, but we get together at least once a year at Thanksgiving. Tom was a Cardinals fan, so I purchased a brick with his name on it.   It’s on the street outside the bleacher area of the new Busch Stadium.
– Barbara Quinn, in memory of Thomas Quinn

brittanybear-v61The year my daughter, 21, passed away I thought I would not even want to get out of bed at Christmas. How could I?  Three kids in the pictures instead of four.  She had been in marching band, flags corps and I had this beautiful uniform hanging in her closet.  I purchased four teddy bears and took the uniform to a seamstress who made four mini uniforms for each of the teddy bears.  So each of her siblings and I had a beautiful teddy bear to hug and to hold during that year and always, just like we will always hold our memories of her through the year and always.
– Kay Emerson, in memory of Brittany Emerson.

My husband and I always had Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house for both families.  My husband died December 26th so the holidays were combined with the anniversary date.  Our first holidays, my sons, 14 and 9, and I decided to spend them out of town with my brother and his children.  We took grandma and grandpa with us, and it was very bittersweet, but it was just what we needed to deal with our loss.  I am now back to having family over at my house for the holidays, but I have changed the time to evening meals instead of the usual noon meal we all shared.  One other thing I did for the December 26th anniversary date was to contact my representative and have two flags flown over the capital on that day.  These flags were mailed to me then with a certificate with Darrell’s name on it in each box. My sons are on their own now and this Christmas I’m going to give them each their flag.
– Tammy Neal, in memory of Darrell Schenimann

We lost our son, Jacob, on August 16, 2008 at 22 years old.  The holidays are always a challenge for us.  It doesn’t seem to be the season itself that affects our spirit, but rather the gathering of family.  When everyone is in the house except Jacob, we always get emotional.  About two weeks before Christmas, my husband and I go out to the cemetery and erect Jacob’s Christmas tree.  It has a stocking hat that he used to wear for a topper and the ornaments all remind us of him.  Our family and Jacob’s friends add things to the tree that were special between them and Jacob.  This is a pretty “unorthodox” tree as far as traditional trees are concerned. There are always surprises for us as we return to the tree and see the special additions those who loved and miss him add. Grieving parents will never tell you that they look forward to the holidays, but as each one passes, we can pat ourselves on the back as survivors. 
– Rita Hagen, in memory of Jacob Hagen

Enduring the holidays without our dear loved ones is indescribable. Each holiday and anniversary that passes, each of us has to find a way to cope with the pain and sadness. Rather than blocking out the pain I choose to do something in memory of my cousin during these times. I have made a scrapbook, shared memories to comfort one another at gatherings and each year a butterfly ornament is bought for our tree. Last year I wrote a poem about my cousin and placed this in a frame with her picture. This not only helps my grieving during these difficult times, but I use these for gifts for her family.  This helps keep our minds busy while still doing something sentimental in memory of our dear loved ones.
– Allison Vazquez, in memory of Dana Ezell

I have a small enough family that everyone has a Christmas stocking with their name on it hanging on the fireplace mantle.  My husband Bert, who died 5 1/2 years ago, will have his stocking hung alongside mine and his kids forever.  I let Jennifer, our daughter, hang his stocking and then we usually tell a silly little story about something dad did. 
– Cheryl Cheatham, in memory of Bert Cheatham

Celebrating the holidays has been especially challenging because we lost our son, Andrew, a few days after Christmas. Andrew delighted in going to the Christmas tree farm to find and then decorate our tree.  To the dismay of the other kids, once the tree was decorated Andrew would like to make the tree lights twinkle on and off.  Now, we a cut branch from our Christmas tree and decorate it.  We place the branch on Andrew’s grave like a miniature Christmas tree.  We add battery operated lights to the cut branch.  During the holidays when we visit Andrew’s grave site we set the lights to twinkle on and off.  Through our tears, we smile because we know Andrew would love the twinkling lights.  Difficult as it is, honoring and connecting with Andrew during the holidays is a healthy way my family is dealing with the death of Andrew.
– Rosemary Latanich, in memory of Andrew Latanich

Our family is small and holidays were deeply rooted in traditions. Christmas, more than Thanksgiving, our family held the same traditions for the past 20 years. This included Christmas Eve and Christmas morning at Aunt Helen’s house. We learned there are many ways families survive holidays. Some function on autopilot and continue established traditions. Others create new traditions.  How we managed last year is a bit of a blur.  In fact, it took plenty of reflection and tears to recall the most mundane details.  We encourage everyone to do whatever feels best in order to survive upcoming holidays.  Say, “No.”  Say, “Yes.”   Decorate, don’t decorate.  Be perfectly ok, mindful, and honest about whatever you REALLY need.  In truth, you won’t remember too much about those days anyway, only that you existed, that your holidays would never be the same, and that you made the first steps toward your tomorrow. 
– The Hamilton’s (Christy, Bob & Aunt Helen), in memory of Bobby Hamilton

Every situation as it involves loss can be so different and difficult to even think about approaching.  The most important part to remember is to remain open to new experiences, and to try to remain positive about outcomes.  Prayer always help and the simplest one is to just simply say, “Oh heavenly God and all the saints in heaven above, please watch over me as I take the risk in this situation that is new for me.”  As we go through our routine lives, loss can really throw that routine out of whack.  The prayer helps us to be able to take the risk to try to once again find a new established routine in our daily lives.  Remember, it just takes time.
– Anonymously contributed

My family had decided to include a dish(food) we had always have mama to to make when we had a big gathering. Even though it may be different from the type or theme we have planned.  I am teaching the grand children,they will teach the great grands, how to prepare the dish so they can carry on the tradition. So when they are home I get all the ingredients and we do it together. Believe me we feel her presence. Coming from a Latin background cooking always took time to make a complete meal, so one dish is all we do. THNX. for you do to help others. 
– Arlene McCormack, in memory of Bernarda Reyes

My son Brett loved Christmas.  On Christmas this year, I am going to ask all of our family members to their favorite Christmas Story about Brett.  When Brett was 17, he and I were sitting at home watching the snow come down at a steady pace.  We were trying to decide if we should try driving to my daughter’s house for Christmas dinner.  Brett asked if he could drive us, and I said yes.  We drove along quietly admiring the fresh snow.  When we arrived at my daughter’s house, he just smiled at me and we both knew he had just received a very special gift from God. 
– Sherry Gerrish, in memory of Brett Mills

kallal-mikeMike Kallal

It was Christmas Eve 2002 and after a day of heavy snow my husband, Mike “Popeye” Kallal was gearing up to take on his toughest acting role yet. That evening he would be playing Santa Claus for a few of his nieces and nephew. That night we went to his brother’s house, set out the gifts, left a note to his nieces, and ate the cookies they had set out. We left the house and waited in a wooded area close by for Denny, Debbie, and kids to come home. As Denny drove up the driveway, Mike stepped out of the house, waved at the kids, and ran off shouting “HO HO HO”. The next day at Mike’s parents, his nieces and nephew were so excited to share their story about their run in with Santa. While we did not know how special that Christmas would be at the time, we realize now how important it was. Every year we talk about “Santa Popeye” and how much Christmas joy he spread.
– Patty Kallal, in memory of Mike “Popeye” Kallal

Joe, my brother-in-law Greg and my sister Paula all died with in 15 months of one another, and the first several Christmas seasons were tough.  I had gotten the Memorial Candle from the Starting Over at the Shrine.  We did it several years together as a family and now I do it alone at home on Christmas Day.  I use my advent candle ring, but any four candles will do. Light one and say the first paragraph and light the next one and so forth.  It brings some tears and raw emotions but comfort as well.   It reads as follows:

AS WE LIGHT THESE FOUR CANDLES  IN HONOR OF YOU, WE LIGHT ONE FOR OUR GRIEF, ONE FOR OUR COURAGE, ONE FOR OUR MEMORIES AND ONE FOR OUR LOVE.

THESE CANDLES REPRESENTS OUR GRIEF. THE PAIN OF LOSING YOU IS INTENSE. IT REMINDS US OF THE DEPTH OF OUR LOVE FOR YOU.

THIS CANDLE REPRESENTS OUR COURAGE, TO CONFRONT OUR SORROW, TO COMFORT EACH OTHER, TO CHANGE OUR LIVES

THIS LIGHT IS YOUR MEMORY, THE TIMES WE LAUGHED, THE TIMES WE CRIED, THE TIMES WE WERE ANGRY WITH EACH, THE SILLY THINGS YOU DID, THE CARING AND JOY YOU GAVE TO US.

THIS LIGHT IS THE LIGHT OF LOVE.  AS WE ENTER THIS HOLIDAY SEASON DAY BY DAY, WE CHERISH THE SPECIAL PLACE IN OUR HEARTS THAT WILL ALWAYS BE RESERVED FOR YOU. WE THANK YOU FOR THE GIFT YOUR LIVING BROUGHT TO EACH OF US.  WE LOVE YOU ALWAYS.

– Pat Mueller, in memory of Joe Mueller