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

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 sorrows. ~ Ferna
Traditions:  New and Old
© Ferna Lary Mills
Rainbow Faith, words of Inspiration, Faith & Hope for the bereaved.
A Christian Grief Ministry
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