It was November of 1996, and the holidays were upon us, the first Christmas to be spent without Ashton and Lamar, the two members of our family who had loved and celebrated Christmas the most. I dreaded it, and I knew my remaining two children Amberly, 15 and Cameron, 14 did also. My decision was to leave Atlanta and fly with the children to my brother’s in Virginia. My brother and his family had a large antebellum home, which they always decorated lavishly with all the Christmas trimmings.
We all agreed it would be unbearable to wake up Christmas morning to a half empty house. Ashton had typically slept under the tree, waking up on the hour to make sure we got up on time (5 A.M. and no later). Lamar would be up making coffee, playing Christmas music with the video camera in hand.
On Christmas morning, Cameron came to the room where I was sleeping with Amberly. “Mom, get up!” I first wanted to bury my head in the pillow and skip the entire day. “Go back to bed, Cameron,” I whispered. “But mom, it’s Christmas,” and I detected a faint glimmer of hope in his voice. With my newfound resolve, I knew it was up to me to put an act on for these children. They were still alive, and Lamar and Ashton would want them to live their lives to the fullest and celebrate living. They would not want them to mourn.
Reflecting on that day, it was hard, yes, but I went through the motions for Amberly and Cameron. When asked later how she felt about that first Christmas, Amberly said she was scared, and I realized that described it perfectly, “scared”. We were all scared, but we got through it. Cameron and Amberly both dreamed about their father and brother that night. I believe they came to them to let them know they were okay and to say, “good job; Amberly and Cameron celebrate your lives and live them to the fullest!”
What I learned: Change your environment over the holidays if possible, and change your traditions, replacing them with new ones.
Anne Allen lost her husband Lamar, 49, and son Ashton, 16, on TWA Flight 800