by Darcie D. Sims
It has been a loooooong time since our first bereaved holiday season, but one of the very special ways we learned to help ourselves through the sometimes crushing grief, was to make sure that we still include our son in our celebration. We do this by buying a gift to him and then giving it away to a child who would otherwise not have a gift.
Dad buys a gift for the age Big A would be and I always buy a gift for the age he was when he died. We wrap them in beautiful paper and then tag it, “Boy, age”…putting the appropriate age on the tag. Then we either take it down to the local homeless shelter or to the Salvation Army or find a minister who will make it sure it gets to a child in need. The first time I did this, I realized that I was a mother who no longer had a child to give a gift to, but I was giving a gift to a child who did not have a mother to receive one from. In that moment, I realized the circle of love that I thought had forever been broken…was mended. Share the love we received from our loved one with others and it will never be lost. We are a family circle, broken by death, but mended by love.
The first year after our son died, it was nearly impossible to go into the dining room for the holiday meal. We almost never ate in there…it was reserved for “special occasions”. The sight of the empty chair was almost too much to bear. However, we are a military family and we incorporated a very old military tradition into our holiday celebrations to help us continue to use the dining room.
We keep the empty chair at the table. It is completely set, but no food is served or wine poured. It represents all the family members who are not with us TODAY…whether they are deployed somewhere, on temporary duty elsewhere or have died. They are still a part of our family circle and always will be so their place at our table will forever be held. We place a real rose, dipped in 24 carat gold across the plate, to remind us of the beauty and foreverness of their presence and their love. We draw comfort from that empty chair because we know that it truly is not empty…it is filled to overflowing with the love and laughter of our loved ones.
Darcie’s son, Austin V. Sims “Big A”, died in 1976 at the age 14 months due to a malignant brain tumor.