Remembering Loved Ones Lost to Cancer During the Holidays


While the holidays can sometimes be a challenging time, there are always gifts to be found.

One of the holiday songs we often hear in the month of December, cheerfully reminds us that, "It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

And whether we are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or any other form of joyful commemoration, these times, as the song suggests, offer us a wonderful opportunity for reflection, appreciation and perhaps healing.

I say healing because not all of us approach the holidays with the same sense of merriment. Perhaps we have lost a loved one to cancer or some other untimely cause, as was the case for me. How can we enjoy the holidays with a heavy heart, knowing that someone whose presence was an integral part of our lives is now missing from the celebration?

Looking back 20 years, I can easily remember how my first Christmas without my wife, who succumbed to ovarian cancer in her 40s, was a difficult time indeed.

With the help of friends and family who knew and loved her, we memorialized her life by setting a plate at the Christmas table in her honor as each one of us shared a simple, but meaningful memory of her. It was an empowering and restorative moment for all of us, despite the sadness that surrounded the occasion.

Cancer has no timetable. The various forms of the disease spare no age, gender or race. And it certainly doesn’t spare the holidays. But the power of cherished memories can have a way of pushing cancer’s grasp aside, allowing us to fully recognize and give tribute to those who have been taken from us.

There are many ways to refute the sadness of cancer over the holidays. I know people who dedicate a Christmas ornament to someone’s memory. You might light a candle in their honor or purchase a gift with them in mind, wrap it and give it to someone less fortunate in memory of your loved one. You could participate in a local walk/run that raises funds to support a cause your loved one would have supported, or to help find a cure for the illness/disease from which he or she died. You might even plant a tree to acknowledge them.

The most important thing, perhaps, is to create a memory in a way that fits you and your own life, as well as the one you are thinking of over the holidays. That is truly a gift from the heart.

My father died suddenly just before Christmas nearly 30 years ago. For many years now, the most meaningful contribution I have made to my own health and wellbeing, and the method by which I have made a substantial part of my living, has been as a writer of both script and music. This is my best tool for expressing how I feel, so naturally my own significant tribute to my father’s life was to pen a song.

And now, as Christmas approaches, I’m wishing all who have cancer in their lives a joyful and fulfilling holiday by sharing a few lines from that song.

MERRY CHRISTMAS MEMORYOn some starry nightWhen the moon is ringed with frostKnow that everyoneSometimes has a love that’s lostAnd if you’ve lost someone please knowThat friends and stars will always glowMerry Christmas memoryIn my heart you liveYou know what you’ve meant to meThat’s the gift you give.Happy New Year anyoneWhom this song might touchPlease know that you’re not aloneSomeone loves you--so much

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