By Yvonne E. Lancaster

On December 22, 1986, our son Brian was killed by a drunk driver. We buried him two days later on Christmas Eve.  Brian was 19 years old and a sophomore in college.  All of his dreams and aspirations to become a marine biologist and hopefully a husband and father someday, were dashed in a split second.

Brian’s tragic accident was followed by intense grieving and mourning during the holiday season. Our world stood still, our lives flash-frozen in time.  Life would forever have two phases — life before Brian and life after Brian.

Brian was full of life and promise.  He was a four-star athlete in high school and enjoyed being healthy, fit and funny.  Due to his easy-going nature, some people called him an old soul.  My husband Tim and I, along with our two surviving children, Elizabeth and Timmy, cancelled Christmas.  The tree came down.  The remainder of the gifts were never wrapped or opened.  As we struggled with our sorrow over Brian’s loss, we returned to our daily routine of going to work and attending school in the best way we could.  After Brian, it would never be the same.

On a cold afternoon in mid-February, I was looking out of the window watching the snow fall. It was quiet and peaceful.  I stared at the top of the tall pine trees wondering what it would be like to view the snowy scene from a mountain top.  I decided to bundle up and enjoy the beauty of the moment.

While looking for my boots in our guest bedroom closet, I came across a cardboard box that had “mom and dad” scribbled across its side.  It was written in haste, no doubt, by one of the kids.  Upon closer inspection, I realized it was Brian’s handwriting.  My heart leaped, and I fell to my knees, sobbing.

Through my tears, I could see that there were gifts for all of us, including Christmas cards.  I didn’t know quite what to do…I opened one of the boxes. It was a set of beautiful wine glasses with a note tucked inside that read; “Mom, Dad — celebrate every day. Love, Brian.”

I knew what he meant – he would always be with us.  I clutched the note to my chest, forever grateful for having such a wonderful son. I realized the passage of time and strong faith will help to heal our grieving hearts.

The following day, I bought Valentine’s Day cards for my husband and children, expressing my love and gratitude for them.  We came together and celebrated our love and appreciation for one another.  We finally opened our gifts, and thanked God for one another, and for the special time we had we had for 19 years with Brian.

Yvonne Lancaster is an editor and human resources consultant from Leominster, Mass. She lost her son when he was 19 years old. Reach Yvonne at

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Yvonne Lancaster

Born in Worcester, MA, Yvonne is a former newspaper columnist and is the recipient of numerous writing awards from United Press International, Massachusetts Press Association and New England Press Association for her column From the Heart. Currently, she writes short stories, poetry and is a still life painter. She is co-author of Every Step of the Way: How Four Mother’s Coped with Child Loss (2006) and From the Heart, Sketches from Life (1985). She was named Woman of the Year by the Business and Professional Women of America. She is currently working on her first novel. Her website is

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