Carrying Old Memories into a New Year

Christmas has ended, and the living room still has that unwrapped look. With the festivities now part of future memories, I anticipate the next hurdle: the start of a new year. The TV commercials romanticize champagne toasts illuminated by glowing candles. People make resolutions, hopeful that this brand-new unblemished year will be the one that fuels their successes.

For the parent who has lost a child to death, a new year can be daunting.  The first New Year’s Day after my son Daniel’s death was scary.  I wanted to hold onto 1997.  Although it was the year he’d lost his battle with cancer and died, it was also the year he’d lived.  1998 would mark the first calendar year without him.

For some reason, the image of an old-fashioned wooden bucket came to me.  With this item, I heard the word carryThat’s it, my newly-bereaved mind said. The key with a new year is to carry the old into it.

So here we are, on the brink of another year, a new decade, with fresh hopes and dreams. A clean slate.  There are many things about 2009 I wish to forgive and forget, but I don’t want to ever forget my son.

Each year marks a year further from when I last held him, heard his voice, and saw his smile. I yearn to hug him, tell him how much he’s grown, and ask him what he’d like for dinner. My heart feels that distinct hollowness and sorrow that belongs to a mother without her child.

But the bucket I have isn’t hollow. It is brimming with memories and fondness, warmed with love and laughter; I hold it tightly.

Just as I carried Daniel’s four-year-old memories into 1998, now — thirteen years later — I will continue to carry them.  And I will do more than just hold them, I’ll let them trickle out, forming their own glow, as I share this special boy with my world.  “Wasn’t it funny when Daniel called adults redults?  Do you remember how he gave stickers away in the hospital, and once when bored made a collage out of baby lotion and glitter?”

Daniel lived, he loved, and I believe he continues to live in Heaven.

So, get yourself a sturdy bucket and carry.  Boldly carry the memories into the new year.  Along the way, give yourself permission to forgive.  Let the memories you recall be the brightest ones.

Listen.  There is nothing to fear. Listen. Your child’s voice can be heard in your heart.

Alice Wisler 2010


Alice Wisler

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Alice J. Wisler, founder of a grief-support organization, Daniel’s House Publications, is a full-time writer and author of contemporary novels. In 1997, her four-year-old son Daniel died from cancer treatments. Since then, her writing focus has been on how to help others in grief. She gives Writing the Heartache workshops across the country. Through her organization, she designs and sells comfort cards/remembrance cards and at her Carved By Heart imprint, carves personalized remembrance plaques. When she isn't writing or speaking, she is promoting her novels---Rain Song (2008), How Sweet It Is (2009), Hatteras Girl (2010), A Wedding Invitation (2011), and Still Life in Shadows (2012). Her devotional, Getting Out of Bed in the Morining, offers comfort and purpose for those dealing with grief and loss. Her cookbooks of memory---Down the Cereal Aisle, Memories Around the Table, and Slices of Sunlight, contain stories of food and memories of children who have died. In 2009, Alice married Carl in Las Vegas, and they live with her three children in Durham, NC. To Listen to Alice's Radio show To learn more about Alice visit her website: and go to her blogs: and


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  • Shirley Wiles-Dickinson says:

    Dear Alice,
    Thank you so much for this writing. I like your bucket. After my sister died, I found myself writing poetry. This is one of the poems I wrote 5 months after her death.

    My Basket

    I pick them up as I remember
    One by one, putting them in my basket.
    The memories of you
    Keeping them safe

    One by one, like beautiful flowers
    I close my eyes and remember
    The things I loved the most
    The smiles and the giggles

    Like freshly picked fruit
    I like the feel of them
    In my mind, in my heart
    Where they will be always

    I will fill my basket, everyday
    With precious memories
    One by one, they’ll be right there
    And soon I’ll fill basket number two.

  • Alice J. Wisler says:

    What a wonderful and heartfelt poem! Thank you for sharing!

  • Geves says:

    Hi Alice

    This is just beautiful. I love the image of a sturdy bucket to carry memories of our child into the next year. We spent this New Year’s Eve with a friend whose son had died earlier a few months earlier and I felt some of his pain as the year shifted to a new one, remembering how it had been the first new year after our daughter died. We lit chinese lanterns, and as they drifted into the sky we cried silently and unnoticed by the others in our party, for whom the new year meant only good things. I’ll share the image of a bucket full of memories with this newly bereaved, Dad with thanks to you for your wonderful words.

    “Listen. Your child’s voice can be heard in your heart.”

    That’s just how I feel.

  • Alice J. Wisler says:

    Thanks, for reading and for your poignant comments. I like the Chinese lanterns idea. We did some luminaries here and those were meaningful.