After being together for 27 years, married for 20, and the parents of a glorious daughter for 12, my beloved husband Trevor died very suddenly of an aortic aneurysm at about 8 p.m. on Wednesday 23 March 2011. While he had clearly been unwell for some weeks, his death was a complete shock. I left him happily playing on the computer while I went out to collect our daughter, Bethany, from a choir practice, but on my return found him lying dead on the bathroom floor.
Christmas came nine months later. It had always been a day where the family came to us. We decorated the house and dressed a tree, putting all the final touches to everything on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day was usually frantic. I did all the cooking while Trevor was always in charge of keeping everyone supplied with a drink. He also did all the washing up and worked hard all day. We usually collapsed in front of his beloved Doctor Who in the evening. All in all, Christmas was absolute teamwork between Trevor and me – a wonderful example of ‘us’ at our best.
I knew that without Trevor, Christmas would be so completely different, but I didn’t want to give up on much of what was good about it. I knew we needed to do something to ‘remember’ him, but also felt that we needed to do some things that would perhaps become ‘new traditions’. I set about preparing ways to remember him well in advance. He called himself ‘Daddy Bear’ to Bethany so I bought a lovely teddy candle holder and lit a tea light in it on the table for Christmas lunch. It was tough that first year, but easier the next. The second Christmas, we made a tree decoration by putting his photo in a small picture frame attached to some ribbon. We hung it on the tree on Christmas Eve. If Bethany had been younger we would have made a cardboard tree decoration with his photo on it – just a simple one that she could have written her message to him on the back. Making a new, personal decoration for him will be a ‘new tradition’ each year now.
As a family, we had never done anything special on Christmas Eve, so that first year, I found a Christmas concert that started at 3.30 p.m. and bought tickets for just Bethany and me. It was something new to do for the two of us. We really enjoyed it because it was completely different from what we’d done before and it also occupied much of the time that I would have spent feeling sorry for myself. We repeated it on the second Christmas and this week I have just bought tickets again – another ‘new tradition’ for us that gets us singing along, sometimes crying, sometimes laughing.
On that first Christmas Day without Trevor, everyone descended and worked hard to overcome his absence. The hustle and bustle did distract me, although much of the day passed in a blur for me. Last year we went out for Christmas lunch at a local hotel for a bit of a change, but this year we are staying home again as, frankly, we prefer my cooking! The evening Christmas episode of Doctor Who remains our big tradition, of course; it is accompanied by tears as it brings back so many memories!
With a young child, New Year had become a much quieter occasion for Trevor and me, and so Bethany and I didn’t really do much without him either; we watched the fireworks on the television as we always did. This year, we are going skiing with WAY (Widowed and Young) so that Bethany can spend a week with other teenagers who have lost a parent. We are all families in the same situation and I feel it’s the right time to do this, though the decision was a difficult one as four weeks before Trevor died we’d gone skiing with friends and it was our last holiday together. But it’s a way of merging another big ‘first’ with a new way to celebrate the New Year.
Christmas will never be the same again, but we will actively remember our wonderful man, marking his absence, while also creating new traditions together and looking to the future. It isn’t easy, but it isn’t a time of deep anguish now either. I think he would be very proud of the way we have managed it.
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