I found although I wanted traditions to continue when my mom died by suicide, most were too painful to continue without her. I found this especially true around Christmas. Trying to continue traditions without her was just a constant reminder of her being gone and her death. As much as I craved the traditions of Christmas past, to do them was more pain than I wanted.
My favorite Christmas tradition growing up was ornament shopping. My parents started a wonderful tradition when my sister and I were born. Each year we would go to Hallmark and pick out an ornament. We got to choose (once we were old enough) one we liked with the only condition being it had to have the year on it. When we got home, mom would write our name and year on the outside of the box and the ornaments were then lovingly placed in her cedar chest. They never went on the tree. The ornaments were to be saved until each of us had a tree of our own. Mom wanted our first tree to be trimmed with a host of nice ornaments.
Each year we would pick a day to go ornament shopping. I loved it! I would look through all the ornaments until I found one I liked. Mine were random… I did get on the Crayola series kick for about ten years… but there was no theme to my ornaments. My sister on the other hand decided to always pick out Christmas balls (she is a much more thoughtful person than I am, having the insight of a tree with all Christmas balls being amazingly beautiful).
When mom died by suicide, dad continued to buy us ornaments. He would pick ones he thought we would like. He lovingly kept the tradition going for many, many years. Eventually my sister took her ornaments for her tree and around the same time we stopped buying ornaments. My ornaments continued to hang out in the cedar chest until about four years ago. I was living in North Carolina and I decided it was time to put up my own tree. I was going home for Thanksgiving and knew I needed to retrieve the cherished ornaments.
Matthew and I had only been dating about two months when my ornaments made their first appearance. I explained the tradition with great excitement. He asked why we stopped buying ornaments and I really didn’t have a reason. He encouraged me to go get an ornament to celebrate my first Christmas tree. He went with me to Hallmark as I picked out my ornament.
Since we had only been dating a few months, I had no clue what to buy Matthew for Christmas. I ended up buying him an Alton Brown cookbook (he loves Alton Brown)! I thought it was a nice gift until during the break while he was at home, he let me know he received the best gift… an Alton Brown cookbook! When I returned from Texas and headed to Matthew’s house for us to exchange gifts, I was a little embarrassed that all I had for him was a book he already had!
When I got to his house, he was so excited for me to open my present. As I opened a big box, I couldn’t believe what I saw… he had bought me back ornaments for the years I was missing. I had no clue how he found backdated Hallmark ornaments, but he did. I was overwhelmed. At that exact moment, I knew I wanted Matthew in my life forever. I really have no words to explain the moment.
Yesterday, Matthew and I loaded up Keaton in our car and made our way to the local Hallmark store. We were shopping for ornaments, two to be exact. We needed one for our tree and we needed one for Keaton.
Some family traditions are too painful to continue… and some are too painful not to continue.