“I believe that we are here for a reason,

I believe that as each day unfolds,

We see less of the shadow

And more of the sun.

Less of the tarnish

And more of the gold.”

A ninety year old man owned a piece of property with a cabin on a small lake in central Wisconsin. He lived in Chicago. He didn’t go to the cabin because his wife died about seven years before, and the five-hour trip seemed more of a burden than a pleasure. But he still wanted to own the cabin because it was rich with golden memories of good times in their lives.

As time passed, the cabin deteriorated both inside and outside. The man finally decided it was time to sell. His memories sparkled with good times and happiness, but his “golden” piece of property had been tarnished by time. The man hoped to sell his beloved cabin for a handsome profit. When the cabin didn’t sell after a year, he finally accepted a low offer and decided to let it go.

Like the man in this true story, we, the bereaved are remembering holidays that were once filled with good times and memories, rich and golden. The death of someone loved in our lives may have tarnished our memories and traditions. Our expectations of the holidays are far different than before.

Remember the verse:  Make new friends, but keep the old…one is silver and the other gold. How simple this verse seems.  Like silver and gold friendships, we can invest wisely in holiday traditions saving some and making new ones.

All that glitters is not gold.

This familiar cliché describes something that is “authentic,” worth a lot of money, or is a very good idea.

We are influenced by the value of gold. We measure “things” by the gold standard. We have gold credit cards, and gold memberships that offer elite privileges. We award athletes with gold medals. We even yearn for streets paved in gold in heaven. We’ve set our expectations high.

Holiday traditions that are golden are a rich part of the legacy we leave our children. They identify us. We pass them on with elaborate stories of how they evolved. We expect that these traditions will continue through our children

If we labeled our traditions “gold” or “silver,” a gold tradition would be one that is time-honored and never changes because it is so meaningful. Gold traditions are passed down thru generations. Gold traditions have the potential to last a lifetime.

Gold traditions in our family were the Christmas feast, going to a candlelight service at church, and large family gatherings. After our son died, the “gold” traditions hurt. The  memories of holidays past were more painful than we anticipated, and the thought of continuing the celebrations without him seemed inappropriate. It was time to re-evaluate and change some of those golden memories to silver traditions.

Silver traditions create silver linings

A silver tradition is either a new tradition or one that you have changed slightly to accommodate your new situation. A silver tradition may need a little polish since initially it may appear dull. A silver tradition can last one year, five years, or forever.

For our family, we changed the family get-together and feasting experience to a small sit-down dinner during a specified time. This tradition has continued since.

Changing a tradition doesn’t make it less meaningful…its value is measured by its appropriateness for everyone involved. One great thing about a silver tradition is that you own it! There is a silver lining in every purposeful tradition we alter.

Both silver and gold traditions bring value to your life for different reasons. Silver traditions may tarnish over time and require maintenance to restore the luster that made them brilliant at the time. But that is the beauty of honoring both kinds of traditions and allowing life changes to balance the past and the present.

The man in our true story who sold his “golden memories” had a happy ending. Months later, my realtor husband called to see how he was doing. He was energetic and happy. He talked about the emotions he felt when he spoke to his family about selling his cabin. But he knew that the time was right. He had to follow his heart.

Since then, he purchased a vintage Mustang car that both he and his wife had always envied. He admitted that he was having a great time enjoying it. He said he still had his golden memories, but his decisions created a silver lining and he was content.

Nan Zastrow 2011

This article is based on the holiday program One Is Silver and the Other Gold. Visit our website www.wingsgrief.org. for details. This program guide comes complete with a gold & silver ritual and a format for group discussions that helps program participants determine which traditions are silver and which are gold. Also includes a “fun” activity,“ What do you value most—silver or gold.

Nan Zastrow

Nan Zastrow

“I always wanted to write,” said Nan Zastrow. “But I never dreamed it would be about death, grief, and mourning. Today I write to heal my pain and teach others that even after a life-changing event, there can be a reason and a purpose to go on living.” On April 16, 1993, Chad Zastrow, the son of Nan and Gary, died as the result of suicide. Ten weeks later, Chad’s fiancée took her life. This double tragedy inspired the Zastrows to create a ministry of hope. They formed a non-profit organization called ©Roots and Wings more commonly called Wings. From 1993—2003, they published the Wings™ magazine, a publication about real situations and real people going through grief that was mailed throughout the United States and Canada. In 2003, their non-profit changed its focus to primarily grief education and support. They publish a free, quarterly newsletter by email to subscribers. Nan and Gary, together, have been keynote speakers at National Bereaved Parents and workshop presenters at various other events. They have been grief group facilitators since 1993, and host workshops and seminars. Each year they host an original theme-based community “When the Holidays Hurt” program for area funeral homes. Nan is the author of four books and over sixty Editor’s Journal Articles in Wings, Grief Digest, and other publications. Their non-profit organization is the recipient of the 2000 Flame of Freedom Award for community volunteerism. Nan was also nominated for the Women of Vision Award in 2001; the Athena Award in 2005, and The HOPE of Wisconsin, hospice volunteer of the year in 2008. Nan and Gary are hospice volunteers and survivors of six sudden deaths of significant people in their lives.

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