I wonder what Thomas will give me for Christmas. I already know what he’s giving the rest of the family. Thomas and I have been shopping. Well, I didn’t exactly take Thomas to the shopping centre but I did help him choose his gifts.

Let me explain…

It is Mothers’ Day 2000. My children are showering me with brightly wrapped presents and hugs and kisses. I feel so blessed. Surely no other mother is as loved as I am?

Callum hands me a card. I open it and read: … lots of love from Felicity, Duncan, Callum, Imogen, Charlotte and Thomas. Thomas? Someone thought to add his name although he is no longer here with us. He died six months ago. It’s so very special seeing all my children’s names together. I am mother to all these children… including Thomas. Yes, Thomas is real. He has a name. I can see it in my card.  There it is, just after Charlotte’s, for of course that’s where it belongs. He is our 6th born child. Tears fill my eyes.

But Imogen’s eyes are shining. She has a huge smile on her face. She thrusts an extra present towards me.  “That’s from Thomas!”

 Felicity explains, “If Thomas hadn't died, he’d have wanted to give you a gift too so we arranged one on his behalf. And we added his name to the card.”

“He’s part of the family, Mum. We couldn’t leave him out,” someone adds.

I feel like I’ve been given an enormous extra gift and I’m not thinking about the box of chocolates…

That year, a new family tradition was begun and since then, it has been repeated every birthday, Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, anniversary, Christmas…

Do we write Thomas’ name in all the greetings cards that our family gives? Do we include him every time we are arranging presents? No. We save this ritual for our immediate family only.

Nobody outside our inner circle thinks to include Thomas’ name when they are writing cards addressed to our family. So maybe these same people might think it a little strange to receive a card that includes all our children’s names. They might have difficulty understanding why we have included the name of a child no longer alive. They might think, “But didn’t Thomas die?” I don’t want to make others feel awkward so I leave Thomas’ name out though my heart yearns to include it.

So Thomas may not seem very real to those outside our family, but to us, he is very real. And of course, he will be an integral part of our Christmas.

Thomas has done his Christmas shopping with my help. On Christmas morning I will say, “Merry Christmas love from Thomas!” and I will hand out his gifts. In return, I will be showered with kisses really meant for Thomas, and all the children will eagerly pull off the wrappings to see what their brother has given them this year.

I can’t buy my own present from Thomas. Will I get one? I have no doubt our children will think to arrange a Christmas surprise for me from my third son. They always have before. They know that Christmas wouldn’t be the same without gifts from Thomas.

So I am back at the beginning. I am still wondering what Thomas will give me for Christmas.
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  1. That is really beautiful. Your children are beautiful. We believe in the communion of saints do we not?
    God bless.

  2. Colleen,

    The communion of saints? Of course! I was touched that it was my children's idea to include Thomas in our family celebrations. They have such a natural relationship with their brother. Adults are more likely to feel uncomfortable with such things: "Isn't Thomas dead? Why did you include his name in the card?" They don't often understand unless they have experienced or shared grief.

    Thank you for your kind words, Colleen!

  3. Weepy in Florida again. :) Your family is so beautiful Sue! I sure hope we can all meet one day! :)

  4. Susan,

    I am sure we will meet! I was telling Andy about the video of the Okefenokee Swamp. (I just love that word...okefenokee... okefenokee...I love saying it!!) He knew all about it! One day we will travel and see the swamp and see you. The money? It'll come. Unexpected things happen sometimes!

  5. What a beautiful tradition:):){{}}

  6. Thank you Sue for such a lovely story. Praying for all of you.

    God bless.

  7. Hi Sue,

    I think it's a beautiful tradition to keep Thomas' name in your cards to each other. It does keep him alive in your thoughts while celebrating the holidays!

    My mom passed away in 1992 and my step mom passed away in 2007, my father still includes both of their names on cards addressed to his kids and his grandchildren. It gives him comfort knowing that we will be thinking of our mom and step mom on our special days.

  8. Noreen,

    Thank you for sharing your father's tradition. How beautiful! It must be lovely to see your mum and step mum's names in your cards.

    Yes, our loved ones may not be here with us but we are certainly thinking of them, especially as we celebrate Christmas. Christmas can be so sad for some people. I guess it's a time when all the memories come flooding back. I hope your dad doesn't feel too alone. Does he spend the holidays with your family?

    God bless and prayers for your family.

  9. Victor,

    I always appreciate your prayers. Thank you. So kind of you to read my grief stories as well as the others.

    God bless.

  10. Yes, he does spend the holidays with us. Thank you for asking!

  11. Noreen,

    Reading your comment, I have a question about the words 'holiday' and 'vacation'. Here in Australia we use the word 'holiday' and not 'vacation'. Do you use both words in the US?

    The greeting in the US is "Happy Holidays" and not "Happy Vacation". Perhaps 'vacation' is reserved for going away type holidays?

    We use the same word for any type of holiday whether it's just a break from school or work or it's an actual trip away.

    Have I confused you completely? My head is whirring a bit! The language differences between all my blogging friends is so interesting.

    Enjoy your holiday with your father!

  12. I probably do use the term loosely. Whenever there is a break from school or work because of a holiday, I never use the word holiday. I call it either Christmas break or Christmas vacation. That would be using vacation in a different way. Thanks for pointing that out!

  13. Noreen,

    We are on vacation though we are staying at home, just having a break from work. I hope I got that right, the US way!!

    God bless you!

  14. Yep, you got it right Sue. You've got the American lingo down good!

  15. Noreen,
    Glad I got that right. I'd better learn the US way of saying things just in case I ever come to visit you on a vacation!


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