Christmas and New Year is a time of reflection, perhaps the festivities surrounding it make missing loved ones a bit more intense. You can’t help wondering what it would be like to celebrate one more Christmas or New Year with them, losing someone at this time is the most difficult to cope with.

In my family, the loss of my younger sister at the age of four, has given me a lot to think about throughout the years. I can’t help wondering what it would have been like to grow up with a sister.

My mother died suddenly just 11 days after we had been out for a New Year dinner at one of the local restaurants and my father died ten years’ later in November, Christmas has never been the same.        unborn-child

My daughter died at birth and although her twin sister survived, and she has been a fantastic daughter, there is bitter sweetness in being thankful for her and at the same time remembering the loss, that part never goes away for a parent to lose a child.

In my grandfather’s time, death was very formal, the deceased had to be attended to, mainly in the home, funeral cards were sent out and you knew what the envelope contained if you received one, it was edged in black. It was almost always a burial for like funeral parlours, crematoriums were few and far between. A service in the house was followed by a cortége to the burial ground, mainly attended by men, often formally dressed in black and possibly wearing top hats. After the service, it was back to the house for a glass of whisky for the men, sherry for the ladies. Burial grounds are notoriously cold and the mourners needed something to warm them on return.

funeral-cards

One of the pieces of jewellery I have is a gold ring belonging to my grandmother, a hair ring or mourning ring. Though the hair is long gone now, it was popular as a remembrance of someone close. A length of hair was taken from the cadaver, plaited and put in a specially made ring. Over the years, the hair was damaged and finally taken out.

I thought initially that this was quite a macabre practice, then realised I have a lock of my hair in a Bible, happy in the fact, for the time being at least it’s not a mourning relic.

Even more macabre are the postmortem memorial cards, when the deceased was posed, sometimes as if being alive, to have a photograph taken.

Perhaps it’s best just to remember people as the were in life rather than in death, that way, they remain with us in our celebrations.

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