I remember it so well. One year when the boys were little Doug and I weren’t going to set up a Christmas Tree. We were going to be traveling and had 3 VERY young children. It didn’t seem worth the effort. Then a Hallmark commercial came on where some children went up to the attic to find Christmas decorations. They started pulling out their favorite ornaments and talking about them. At that moment I was manipulated by advertising and couldn’t imagine NOT putting up the tree. Our boys had to have those memories.
I think we have put up a tree every year since. Most years have been our trusty artificial tree. One year we actually cut down our own tree. We always have to rearrange the living room to fit the tree. It’s cramped with it there, but it seems like a necessary part of Christmas. There are so many memories on that tree. The boys each have favorite ornaments and put their own up. Because it is so covered in memories though, it is now also very painful.
The first Christmas after Gabe died we contemplated not putting the tree up, but realized that the other boys deserved to have it up. It was far more painful for Doug and I than them, I think. It required moving Gabe’s shelf in the living room which was a very sad task. I ended up leaving the house while Doug did that part.
Before we decorated the tree we started a new tradition. We all got in the car and went to Hobby Lobby. We each chose an ornament that reminded us of Gabe. Here are our 2016 ornaments:
First we got the picture frame for his school picture. My choice was the cross with a horseshoe- for his faith and because he LOVED horses. Doug picked the headphones-he always wore big headphones. The middle brother picked Nemo because that was Gabe’s favorite movie- He identified with Nemo because Nemo had a broken fin and he had a broken heart. The youngest picked the bobbers, because they loved fishing together. Going to pick out those ornaments was a great way to remember and talk about Gabe and incorporate him into our holiday.
We decided that we would make it a tradition and here is a photo of last years choices:
Last year I chose the angel wings with a heart-he is my heart angel. Doug chose the scout shirt because that was such a big part of his life. Middle brother picked a pencil- because Gabe used to eat pencils (I’m not kidding, he had a disorder called pica and he ate non food items. Pencils were a favorite). The youngest picked a car. Both of them loved cars. One of my favorite memories of Gabe was him running through the house after a Corvette passed telling his brother about “A Vette! A Vette!”. He was so excited to tell his brother.
This year we went again and there are always some pretty perfect ones:
I picked the gumballs- Gabe often chewed gum to try to help with the aforementioned pica, but he ended up eating the gum. Not only did he eat it he would eat a pack in a very short time. We would hide it around the kitchen, but he always found it and the gum would disappear so fast! Doug chose the airplane because of memories on a favorite scout trip to the airshow. My middle picked a seal- Gabe loved the aquarium and had a stuffed harbor seal that was a favorite. My youngest picked another car!
I think it helps to have this new tradition. We would of course much rather have him here, putting up his own ornaments. But since he isn’t here we do this and create a section for him on our tree. It is a tradition we will probably keep for a long time. I guess eventually we will need a tree just for his ornaments, but I’m ok with that!