On April 5, the first anniversary of my dad’s death, I ate a tin of kippers for breakfast. He loved kippers on saltines.
I’m curious how (or if) you mark the date of death and birthday of a loved one. Are there traditions you’ve established or have considered establishing? How do you think about or work through those days, or the holidays? Leave a comment or send me an email at email@example.com. I will include your answers in the next Grief Talk.
To start off our conversation about acknowledging dates, I asked my friend Pauline Drozeski to write about her son, Tony, and the ways his family and friends remember him. Pauline is a writer from Erie who is working on a book about her experiences in the aftermath of a house fire. Part memoir/part practical guide, Pauline hopes to save others the frustration and confusion she faced in the ensuing minutes, hours, days, and months after her house burned and was declared unlivable. (Listen to Pauline explain it in her own words.)
Remembering My Son
Cancer, CANCER! IN HIS LEG? I could not comprehend what the doctor was trying to tell me. He was explaining the results of the biopsy he just completed on a large growth on the back of my oldest son’s leg.
All that was going through my mind was that I know about breast cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer and others, but I never heard of a cancer in someone’s leg.
In the days to follow, we learned Tony had a Myxoid/Round Cell Liposarcoma tumor in his calf. It is a rare cancer that grows in the cells that store fat, and usually grows in the arms and legs.
In the two years that followed, Tony underwent surgery, chemo, and radiation. Nothing helped. We lost Tony not long after his 37th birthday.
People grieve in many ways and do different things to remember their loved ones. Once a year, Tony’s buddies gather to remember and celebrate their friend. The gathering has come to be called “Tony’s Party.” Tony’s friends share stories, photos, tears, and laughter as their way to remember and honor their friend.
My youngest son and I drink a toast to Tony each year to mark the day and time we lost Tony. We make sure to be together in person or via Facetime to drink a shot of whiskey at 1:25 a.m. on February 26th.
Cancer took my son and changed the lives of so many people that loved him. But we have turned our grief of losing him into celebrating his life.