Posted by: Kathy | November 23, 2015

Things We Leave Behind

Out of all the prompts for the assignment for day 16 of Writing 101, it was the words “things we leave behind” that stopped me, intrigued me, and called to me. For this post I am turning the page over to my son and posting the first part of a paper he wrote for his honors English class. I found this on my computer, which he uses to print his assignments, and hesitantly received his permission to post it on my blog.

When we die, we leave behind our memories and our traditions. These are my son’s words about the traditions my mom left for him.

Christmas with Grandmom

Traditions are something that most families define themselves by. They may be started in an accidental or silly way and seem insignificant at the time, but you find yourself abiding religiously to these customs. I believe that these traditions are passed down through generations. The child may react the same way to the custom as when it was first started, thinking it’s silly or stupid, maybe even taking it for granted, not realizing how important it will become when they are teaching their children.

When I was little I would go over to my grandparents’ house every Friday and Saturday to spend time and have fun with them. Around Christmas though, I spent just about every free moment I had at their snowy house in Pennsylvania. My grandmother and I would spend so much time together trying to make the rest of my family’s Christmas a memorable one. I recall one year we made clay figures representing each of my family members and hung them on the tree as decorations. Another year we made candles in secret out of milk cartons as presents. When Christmas day rolled around she was definitely the spirit of the day and was the one in charge. She was in control of all of the cooking, including her famous carrot soup and was also the one orchestrating the gift giving. She always knew how to keep a conversation going and happy when no one could think of what to say. She led the prayer before dinner and it was as if she had planned even that days before. This was a day full of laughter and good memories that left everyone tired but not wanting to leave. My grandmother had a warmth about her that would draw people towards her even if they had never met her before. The Christmas tradition began as far back as I can remember and taught me how a holiday should be run in my mind.

A while after my eighth birthday my grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. That Christmas she was still the one who was in charge of everything and kept everyone’s spirits up. She was the happiest person in the room even though she had the most to be sad about. It was the just the type of person she was. Christmas was the same as always. You couldn’t recognize the difference.

The next year my grandmother died in November. We never got to have another Christmas with her.

A month later when Christmas rolled around we didn’t know what to do or how to celebrate without her. Without realizing it we created the same Christmas that she taught us. My mom did the cooking and made carrot soup the way her mother always taught her. At dinner my grandfather said the prayer the same way she would have done it. I tried my best to keep the mood up and orchestrate the holiday like she used to. No one realized that she had been preparing us all for this, especially on her last Christmas where she took the time to show everyone how to do everything she did. I didn’t realize until after.

My son writes more to end the assignment, but this is what touched me the most. This is part of what my mom left behind for her grandson. My son’s words touch my heart and bring tears to my eyes. I never realized how closely he was paying attention to all that was going on around him. I know my son will take these traditions into his own life, when he makes a life of his own with his children. That makes me proud.


  1. Your son leaves a beautiful ode to his Grandmom and your mom – thank you so much for sharing. This was beautiful and reminds us of how to share in the Christmas spirit with our nearest and dearest, especially with the festive season approaching xx

    • Thank you. As I may have mentioned, my son doesn’t talk much about his grandmother. Her death was very hard on him. What he wrote is a gift for me, even though it was just an English assignment. You’re right, his words are a reminder of how to share in the Christmas spirit. Thanks for comment.

      • He think your son writes beautifully and hope that his assignment helped him to explore the feelings he finds hard to talk about – writing can be cathartic in that sense xx

  2. […] posts brought tears to my eyes. Like Hayley’s letter to her dad or Kathy ‘ s post about things we live behind. Others made me reflect on things and life as came with good advice about future and time. I love […]

  3. The things we leave behind… Teaches us to be present and grateful. Your post is beautifully written and your son has the ability to put treasured moments and feelings into words.
    Thank you for sharing

    • Thank you for stopping by. When I literally found this on my computer it was like a gift – being able to see something through my son’s eyes. He and my mom were so close and he doesn’t talk about her much since she died.

  4. That is such a very well-written and touching story! Some of us take the present for granted; we are born this way so we assume this is going to last but it won’t, everything will be fine but at some point, it will stop being the same way and that’s why we try to be grateful and thankful always, even if we don’t see what’s coming, gratefulness and spirituality shall keep us closer to God and God will be closer to us. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your comment. You’re right and I am guilty of doing so, taking things, people, for granted. I expected my mom to be with us for many more years than she was, and it was such a shock when she was diagnosed with cancer. It made me realize how precious life is and how we never know how long we have with someone.

      • Avoid feeling guilty please; this particular feeling is destructive and kills the soul. You sure have learned a big lesson and your life has improved. Your mom would love you to prosper and raise your child to be a successful man, do that for yourself, for your mom and son. 🙂

  5. Wow, thank you for sharing. While I am sad that you have lost someone so precious to your family, it was heart warming to see how each person stepped in to fill that void. And that while one person held so much space in your family, each person did their part to contribute and in a way, demonstrate how a part of her- the grandmother- lives on within each person within your family. That is how loved ones live on, inside each person they leave behind.

    Thank you for reminding me of this. Such a beautiful piece.

    • Thank you for your kind words. My mom was such a huge presence all our lives that it took more than one of us to fill the void left by her death. Your comment reminds me of my favorite quote “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”

  6. This was such a wonderful post to read! Wonderful that you have the memories and that you have the beautiful writing you son did. I love that you were all being taught the traditions without even realizing it. And I think this happened for us, too, when my Gram passed away a couple of years ago. We had a long long time with her — she was 93 when she died — and for that I am so grateful. But after so many holidays with her for so many years, we find ourselves doing the things she did without even realizing we’re doing them! I guess she’s still with us at every holiday gathering, isn’t she?

    • I like to think they are here with us. I had a strong feeling my mom saw my daughter’s first dance recital last June. It’s nice that you’re doing the same things your Gran did. We take the traditions that are close to our heart and keep them going. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. How wonderful such treasured memories can be brought into present moments. I think Grandma prepared the family to celebrate the now. Beautiful!, thank you.

    • Thank for your comment. I didn’t see it as my mom preparing me actually I until I read my son’s words. But I guess she was trying to prepare all of us. The one thing she always stressed to me was the importance of family, especially kids.

  8. This is so incredibly touching! What a wonderful person your grandmother was! I love this line…’She was the happiest person in the room even though she had the most to be sad about.’…. Beautifully written! (Great taste in music and a writer! (if he’s the same son:))) What a lovely tradition to pass on!

    • Yes, same son. I only have one (and a daughter). He wrote this for a class, but it’s his feelings about his beloved grandmother and what they shared. As I wrote in the commons, I believe my son was closer to my mom than I was. They shared a lot together. It’s a true tragedy that she’s gone and so much has changed.

  9. This is beautiful and very well written. HE has the gift of writing just as you do. But what touched me more than anything else, was his efforts along with all of you to keep the memory of your mother alive. The carrot soup, saying the prayers, is all a way of remembering her. Please encourage your son to do it every year. That way, she’ll get to join you in spirit. 🙂

    • Keeping my mom’s memory alive is part of a promise I made to her. But it is also more than that, as my mom made the holidays so special for all of us, I think we want to keep her a part of them. We all miss my mom and all that she did for her family. Thanks for commenting.

  10. This is a beautiful post and you have quite a wonderful son. Children notice more than we realize. My mom commented on that recently. Something I did or said sparked that comment. I hope someday I can keep going my family’s traditions when, and if, I have family of my own.

    • Thank you, Melinda. I know that children see more than we think they do, but the depth of his understanding at such a young age amazed me. Although he wrote this it age 16, these observations were made when he was much younger. I’m grateful we have these traditions to hold on to because it adds a bit of my mom into our holidays.

      • Yes it does and she must be smiling about that wherever she is now.

        • 🙂

  11. Kathy this is a very beautiful post. Your son is such an intelligent boy to observe everything and realize their importance. I had tears in my eyes by the end… You must be proud for having an incredible family. Your mother for sure is smiling in Heaven.

    • I am very proud of my children. My son doesn’t talk of his grandmother, so this piece of writing is a gift. Thank you for your comment. 🙂

Tell me what you're thinking:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: