This month marks one year since we lost my mom to cancer. We’ve been through our year of firsts. First Christmas. . .first birthdays. . .first summer. . .first vacation. . .without her. I’m convinced I will never get used to celebrating milestones and holidays with her absent, but I know I can make it easier by including her legacy in our plans.
My children lost both my mom and my husband’s mom in the early years of their lives. I never imagined they would lose their grandmothers so soon. I always envisioned our moms at our kids’ high school graduations and weddings. But that is not our story. Our story includes two women gone before their grandchildren could truly know how amazing they were. And it’s my job to tell their story, for years after they left us.
As we approach the holiday season – a favorite for my mom and mother-in-law – I am determined to be intentional about carrying on the legacy of our lost loved ones. I am committed to involving their memory in our festivities. Because my children need to feel their presence, even in their absence. My children need to be reminded because their little minds can so easily forget.
Have you lost a loved one? Are you dreading the holidays without them? For the sake of their honor and the memory of our children, here are 5 ways to carry on the legacy of our lost loved ones this holiday season:
Talk about them. Share memories of Thanksgivings and Christmases past. Ask older loved ones to tell stories of their childhood or early years of marriage. Talk about gifts given and received. Try to remember funny moments and laugh together. The best way we can keep the legacy of our loved ones alive is to bring them into our presence through conversation surrounding their lives.
Make their favorite recipes. As hard as it was, last year we gathered together and made my mom’s Christmas cookies. We did an awful job without her but we felt her near as we tried to carry on her Christmas baking tradition. We’ll try again this year and laugh at the thought of her taking over to salvage our messes. At Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner we’ll make our moms’ favorite dishes and wish they was there to add in that extra pinch of love that makes the food taste so much sweeter.
Carry on their traditions. Baking, gift-giving, dinner menus, carol singing. . .whatever family memories our lost loved ones enjoyed, we need to continue. It’s so easy to let traditions slip away without certain family members but we must fight to continue to carry out the things they loved. With my husband’s family rooted in England, my mother-in-law loved to give out Christmas crackers on Christmas Eve. We all enjoyed the tradition but could easily do without it. But each year, we continue to find those little packages on our dinner plate and as we pop them open we think of her. If we want our children to carry the legacy of our lost loved ones into their own lives for years to come, we need to teach them the value of tradition.
Give gifts in their honor. Especially for our children. We can give gifts that we know our lost loved one would have given. We can talk about them as we present those gifts. “Gigi would have loved to give you this toy horse for Christmas. She would be so proud of how you are learning to ride.” Knowing the pain of losing my mom will be sharp this holiday season, we’ll also find gifts to give my dad that will honor her and her legacy. We can keep our loved ones close throughout the gift-giving holidays by honoring them in our exchange.
Be thankful for the memories they left behind. Holidays tend to open the wounds of loved ones lost. It can be easy to stuff wonderful memories to save ourselves the pain of directly dealing with the fact that person is not with us this year. But memories keep those we’ve lost alive. And a heart of thanks brings honor to the life they lived. Our children need to see us finding joy in the past despite the pain of the present. Our children need to hear us sharing memories with thanksgiving that our loved one graced our life as long as they did.
Have you lost a loved one recently? Have you worked hard to carry on the legacy of someone lost years ago? What are some of your favorite ways to honor lost loved ones during the holiday season?
Jessica blogs at Grace for Moms where she encourages moms to live confident in their beautiful uniqueness. A former working mom, she is now learning to embrace the chaos of the hardest job she’s ever had. She lives in Nolensville, TN with her husband Dave and two children, Hope (6) and Joshua (3).