Holiday Traditions
©  Ferna Lary Mills
There's a joke in our family about the way to prepare the tastiest ham.  For years my mother
said the secret is to cut the butt end off before putting it in the oven.  I asked her what purpose
this serves, thinking it must let the juices out to help baste the ham.

She said she didn't know, but her mother cooked in that way and it was always the best ham
she ever tasted.  It became a tradition to cut the end off the ham prior to cooking.

Years later, we were at my Grandmother's house for Thanksgiving and I noticed she "forgot" to
cut the end off the ham before it went into the oven.  Shocked, I asked her why she had
always done that before, but wasn't doing it now.

She laughed heartily and said, "Because now I have a bigger pan.  It wouldn't fit in my old pan
unless I cut the end off!"

Traditions.  Things we do that bring us fond memories of loved ones and happy times.  Those
warm, fuzzy feelings.  They become part of our lives.  Things to look forward to.  Things that
warm our heart with just a thought.  Until our loved ones leave us.  Then, they become too
painful to bear.  Bitter-sweet memories.  Painful ones.  Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries,
picnics, vacations.  What once was joy, now only magnifies our loss.  So, should we throw
away all of those traditions that used to bring such joy to our hearts?  I ask, "Will that help
ease the pain?"  I don't think so.

Refusing to participate in the old traditions doesn't stop us from remembering them.  In fact, the
absence of those traditions usually increases the feeling of "aloneness" and abandonment.  
Yet, to continue in the old traditions increases the reality of our loved one's absence.  So what
do we do when it seems like we can't win for losing?  Create new traditions!

Build on the happy memories of the old ones, but work it into a new tradition for you and your
family.  You say your family always went to the beach for July 4th?  So, go to the beach, but
do it in June.  Or celebrate Independence Day at the lake or in the mountains instead.  But
start a new tradition.

If you've always had a big family dinner at Christmas, you can still do that to honor the family
members you still have with you.  But maybe now you can hold it at a different home, or in a
different town, or at the civic center.

After my parents died, Thanksgiving was the last thing I wanted to celebrate.  I wanted to curl
up into a ball and have someone wake me up when it was over.  But I thought of the rest of my
family.  We were all hurting.  I thought if my mother could look down from Heaven, how proud
she would be that we still pulled together, instead of pulling apart.

We had Thanksgiving dinner together,  said a special prayer of thanks for the loved ones
present and had a moment of silence for those who were missing from our table that year.  
Then we carved the turkey.

We chose not to have ham that Thanksgiving.

This year, we have even more loved ones missing from our "table". They will be sorely missed
and we will remember them with our prayers and honor them with pulling together as a family
unit even in their absence. But I've learned one thing about life after dealing with so many
losses, and I can tell you in three simple words ~ it goes on.

May God bless you and bring you Peace, and touch you with a special blessing of comfort
during the Thanksgiving Holiday. May you find true reasons to be thankful, even in your


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