We all have those special dates that we love to celebrate. Who doesn’t love to celebrate their birthday? Or their wedding anniversary? Or maybe even the anniversary of your first date? We also have those shared holidays that we are invited to celebrate – from religious (such as Christmas, Easter, Hannukah) to national (such as Memorial Day, Thanksgiving Day, Fourth of July). Then there are the “Hallmark” holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Since Eric passed away in 2011, Father’s Day has been one of many tough holidays for us. We have tried 1) Celebrating with a favorite dessert and a candle and some kind words 2) Making a card that we put up in the house 3) Celebrating with Grandpa. So far, they have all ended with Lily and I in tears and a declaration that she didn’t want to do that again. This year, I nearly avoided the subject of Father’s Day altogether. Midway through the day I decided to ask (instead of decide for her) “do you want to do anything in honor of dad today?” She said no. That was that. I have learned from my wise daughter that everyone has the right to decide whether to celebrate or not to celebrate.
Like us, so many of you have lost someone to cancer and it makes celebrating some of these holidays/anniversaries very difficult. In fact, they make us wonder how we will ever be able to celebrate again? We often feel pressure to join the crowd. But, like everything in life, there is no one right answer for everyone. For some, skipping the holiday all together is the right call. Still others just need a year off and then they can resume. Or perhaps we decide to just add a new tradition to the annual celebration that honors the person we lost.
This Father’s Day, I made sure to take a moment to call my dad to tell him how much I love him. I texted Eric’s dad to tell him I was thinking of him on this day and how grateful I am that he raised such an amazing son I was lucky enough to call my husband for 9 years. The mother of one the teenage patients we served through the Care Box Program shared this with us on the 3 month anniversary of her daugher’s death “The Care Box Program is a really good program, it helped my family because I didn’t have to worry about getting supplies for me and also helped us financially and to focus more on Kim’s treatment and the trials ahead of us, so once again thank you and your team for all your support during that really difficult time in our lives. I know if Kim was still alive she would be saying thank you as well. God bless you all.”
For me, August will be full of more anniversaries that will make me ask myself “to celebrate or not to celebrate?”. They include both a “happy” anniversary (13 year wedding anniversary) and a “sad” anniversary (4 year anniversary of Eric’s death). Will I celebrate? Will I hold a ceremony or memorial of some kind? The truth is, I don’t know. What I do know is that I will figure it out for myself. So if you are feeling the pressure to celebrate or act in a certain way on an upcoming holiday or anniversary, just be kind to yourself and know that it is OK to do whatever feels best for you!