Holiday Angels

When it feels like the rest of the world is approaching the holidays with heightened joyous anticipation, for grieving families, the calendar countdown can generate feelings of isolation, anxiety, and even dread. In big and small ways, our loved ones’ absence feels more palatable during these months - an empty chair at the family dinner table, a quieter room, gifts that will never be given or received, an aching for what was, or a longing for what could have been.

 

Over the years, our KinderMourn families have made it through this season best by leaning on each other, sharing survival tips, recalling fond memories, and most importantly, creating space to do whatever feels right. Some families find that incorporating their loved one into their customs can bring great comfort. This is certainly true for Debbie Bost, who has always loved the holidays and found some meaningful ways to feature her late son Lukas in her traditions.

Debbie describes Lukas as a person who was “incredibly athletic and full of life.” An avid sports enthusiast from the time he was little, Lukas tried and mastered about every sport you may imagine – from snowboarding, tennis, cycling, to running, baseball, golf, swimming, and more. As a young man, Lukas was also affable and kind. One fellow classmate described how nervous she was on the first day of college, and Lukas, noting this, took the initiative to approach her with a warm and 

unconventional welcome; “Hi, I’m Lukas. Lukas with a K,” he said. As an adult, Lukas became a competitive triathlete and a devoted father to two amazing children. No doubt the mantra he lived by, “show love, be kind and do your best,” exemplified these qualities.

In addition to fatherhood, Debbie shares that one of his “proudest accomplishments and happiest days of his life” was when he completed a 70.3-mile Ironman. Sadly, just a few months later, unexpected personal news would send Lukas into a deep depression that he ultimately would not be able to overcome. In 2019 he died at the age of 44. Debbie soon joined a support group at KinderMourn for parents who have lost adult children, describing it as a “lifeline that gives me permission to really say what I need to, when I need to say it.” This includes sharing openly about her love

for Christmas décor and incorporating decorations that have a special connection to 

Lukas.

For as long a she can remember, Debbie has always displayed multiple Christmas trees. She also takes great care in collecting ornaments. One of her trees has more than 100 angel ornaments, including an angel that Lukas made when he was just four years old – and importantly, the first one Debbie placed on the tree.


Debbie enjoys the decorations so thoroughly, she goes right to work the day after Halloween, but waits to put up her porch Christmas tree until after Thanksgiving so “the neighbors don’t think I am totally crazy,” she says, laughing.

After Lukas’ passing, Debbie talks about that first holiday as quite difficult. But in the process of cleaning out Lukas’ apartment, she stumbled on a Christmas tree he had not only displayed, but decorated with a set of matching ornaments, and a bicycle ornament, in honor of his love for the sport. Debbie was especially touched that even in his darker days, Lukas took the care and time to tend to a tree. This inspired her to bring Lukas’ tree to her home and begin decorating itwith new ornaments in his memory. This year marks her third decorating Lukas’ tree, and she will add an ornament that features a picture of Lukas and his children at Christmas with the word “love” under it. Debbie will also have an angel ornament inscribed with Lukas’ full name, his birthdate, the date of his death, along with the words, “forever in our hearts,” that she will add to her angel tree. Fittingly, this will be the last ornament she places on the angel tree.

While she misses Lukas every day, Debbie takes comfort in the process. Lukas’ tree is the first one to go up and stands tall in her bedroom, so it’s never far away. Debbie also has 13 personalized ornaments her grandmother made with Lukas’ picture – one for each year of childhood. Each ornament can stand on its own, so Debbie carefully positions them in visible places throughout her home.

“All of this, it is my way of keeping Lukas involved at Christmas,” Debbie shares. She also shares how she gets sad when she hears about other families who are struggling during this time. “I definitely understand, but I also want them to know that joy can be found again,” she says. For her, that involves keeping Lukas’ memory alive in ways she didn’t really anticipate, until she just started. She also incorporated ideas from others, including a fellow parent in her KinderMourn group, who lights a candle daily in her child’s memory. “I thought that was really nice, so I’ve started to do that for Lukas too,” Debbie says.

However you choose to approach this holiday season, know that there are

many KinderMourn families who have navigated this season too, and

understand. And that sometimes even the smallest acts in the memory of

our loved ones can bring great meaning and comfort.


Thank you to Elizabeth Bennett for capturing Debbie's story.

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