From the beginning, I was worried Claudia would be forgotten. The thought of people forgetting about her was just too tough for me to bear; and I certainly didn't want my children to forget about their sister. I don't know why I thought they might, but I wasn't about to take any chances.
Claudia passed over in August, so before you knew it we were in the Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year's whirlwind. And, for me, the first year was a nightmare. I didn't want the holidays to happen, but I had to find a way to make them fun for my surviving children.
Flowers & Candles
For Halloween, I made costumes, decorated the house and we went trick-or-treating. Once Thanksgiving grew near I bought a large bouquet of beautiful flowers. I put them in a vase on the kitchen counter along with a candle and a photo of Claudia. Each afternoon, I'd light the candle. This was Claudia's little alter. It was my way of acknowledging her throughout the holiday season. I'd refresh the flowers as needed until after the New Year. In some way, this ritual helped me get through these holidays.
I had always sent out a holiday photo card and I continued. At first I'd add stickers, like a dragonfly or an angel, signifying Claudia. As years progressed I got more creative or would even add one of Claudia's baby photos. I have always signed our cards with everyone's name, inlcuding Claudia's. The way I see it, if she were still a newborn, I'd be signing for her as I did for all of my children on our Christmas card. She will always be our daughter and as long as I am including all of our names in our family, she will be there too!
We are lucky, in our little town, that we are allowed to put up a small Christmas tree at Claudia's grave. We decorate it together and it is another way of acknowledging her. Solar lights are becoming more and more popular. They are commonly available in the spring, for the garden, so I collect them whenever I see them. Now Claudia has a lit Christmas tree, star and all, at her grave site.
We began planting a favorite perennial at her grave on her birthday. When we ran out of room, we added a small tree in our yard to remember our 5th and 10th year without her here. But, our favorite thing to do on her birthday is to send her balloons. We each write a small note, roll it up tightly, choose a balloon, stuff the note inside and fill the balloon with helium. Then we all let them go at once. Our gift to Claudia. Sadly, balloons have become a problem for wildlife especially in the ocean. So we have stopped sending up balloons. We then started lighting Chinese Lanterns and set them off into the sky. We've done it from land at the coast, but it's too nerve wracking as the wind can take these lanterns back over land, risking a possible fire hazard. So we switched to setting them off from my boat, the Dragonfly, way off the coast. Because these lanterns can be a fire hazard on land, they are very hard to find.
Claudia only had one birthday cake. It was a golden cake with chocolate frosting. I made it for her and she loved it. I make this same cake every year in her honor for her birthday.
We also plan a family day for her birthday. It started because I hated being along on her birthday as it was just too painful. So my husband starting planning day trips to make the day better for me. We would go to Canobie Lake Park, Water Country, take a boat ride, go into Boston for the day, fishing off my boat - whatever we all wanted. It has become a special tradition, one I hope my kids will continue to do with their families when they are older.