A wife pays tribute to her husband with special holiday tree

18/12/2018

It's a grieving wife's way of having her husband near for one more Christmas.

In Carol Anne Reese Parrott's dining room – "in a spot where I'm not staring at it all the time, but it's there when I need to" – stands a Christmas tree, unique in its design, irreplaceable in its significance.

Its garlands are made mainly of hospital bracelets worn by her husband, Mike Parrott, who died in August less than a year after being diagnosed with gallbladder cancer. He was 55.

"As much as Christmas decorating and even thinking of Christmas has been painfully hard, I guess this is my way of having Mike present for Christmas," Carol Anne says of the tree. 

"And it acknowledges the journey we as a family went through, together by his side."


Carol Anne and her husband, Mike, at the finish line of a marathon in Kenya in 2016.
(Photo: Courtesy Carol Anne Reese Parrott)


After Mike's first few trips to Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Carol Anne says he started cutting off the hospital bracelets and linking them together. It made her think of garlands you'd make in school as a kid, the ones with green and red construction paper that would hang in classrooms this time of year.

"Last fall, I told him the hospital bracelet garlands would be on our next Christmas tree and he seemed good with that idea," she says.

In addition to the bracelets, the tree includes snowmen with the names of their three children, a white nutcracker, antique wishing bells and angels with drums – an instrument Mike played in his youth.

"The tree is decorated in white and silver," Carol Anne says. "They are colours of honour and respect."

Coping with grief

Marking the first year of holidays or family traditions without a loved one is often very difficult, says Reverend Dr. Marc Doucet, Manager of the Spiritual Care Department at UHN.

"Holidays or family traditions tend to bring up a lot of past memories because these are markers we have in the year," he says. "The advice I give is to give yourself permission to feel what you're feeling and know this is the normal process of grieving."

It can sometimes be challenging to know how to support someone grieving the loss of a loved one, but it's important to continue to extend invitations to connect, without pressuring them, Marc adds.

Carol Anne says she's also learning to be comfortable reaching out to people when she needs to.

"For others in a similar situation I would say don't be afraid to reach out and ask when you need support, even if it's just a hug," she says. "I think you feel better when you do and then people also become more in tune with what you need."

Read the full story at UHN News