At the top of my stairs is a picture of hands.   Hands lovingly placed in a picture given to me by a family friend of the last Thanksgiving dinner my husband had with us as a family in 2014.


At this family gathering of friends, my husband, our daughter and I were seated preparing to give thanks for what had happened in our lives over the past year.  In addition, the host asked each of us to draw our hands on a piece of paper and then write words of thanks.  Anything that meant something to us individually.    My husband, ever the compliant retired veteran, proudly outlined his large hands and wrote the words “2014, thank God for family and friends” and then waited his turn to share with the others.


Most people at the table didn’t understand the significance of the word “family” to my husband as most didn’t know that he had six grown kids and lots of grandkids and had started a new life with me.   Since most of his adult kids and grandkids were in the California area, the ability to talk on the phone or travel to visit them meant a lot to him, as well our little family of three. He loved his big, extended family.


After John died in May 2015, the host kindly framed those hands and gifted them to me for Christmas 2015.  It was and still is a special, treasured item. That picture has hung at the top of the stairs for about 4 years now, and I hadn’t thought much about it until recently.  I thought about the meaning of family and pondered how we were going to spend 2020 Thanksgiving in a pandemic, where family gatherings are discouraged?


Last year my daughter and I ate alone at the round table full of catered and homemade food items.   I ordered a scrumptious jerk turkey with roasted vegetables, callaloo, Coco bread and a series of other vegetables to round out our meal.  We felt blessed to be alive – together.


Again this year we will spend the time together and as with most traditions, we will talk about her daddy- what he liked to eat, and what he did to bring a smile on her face! They had a special bond (I was slightly envious), but that bond keeps her motivated to be the best she can be.


It’s encouraging to find traditions that you can make or continue when your husband is no longer physically present to share them.  Things that warm your heart.  Traditions that can make you smile.  Traditions of preparing favorite foods or drinks.  Or even setting a candle in memory of your loved one.

We find ways to cope with grief during each holiday.  Holidays can be hard for most widows, with its own set of memories and its own set of tears.  My heart tugs with thoughts of what was and what can never be again.


I have such fond memories holding those hands. Being hugged and cared for by those hands. Being loved by those hands. The hands of a man that uplifted us, protected and worked hard for us.  Those same hands took care of us for over 23 years and will never be forgotten.


I pray you make the best of your holiday season this year and develop new traditions to make the season more tolerable.  I will do my best to continue to carry on our traditions in memory of my husband, John.



Ajai Blue-Saunders is a servant leader and works for a nonprofit in the Richmond VA area. She is always seeking ways to encourage and serve others, even while experiencing the sudden death of her husband in 2015. Her work experience includes project development, herbalist, management, supervision and overseeing several companies and nonprofits.

Ajai has a heart for the disability community and serves on many local and national boards. She currently is solo parenting an artistic adult daughter with disabilitiies and together they are navigating this life with faith and love. She currently runs a widow's support group that meets monthly sponsored by a local funeral home which provides a safe place for widows to experience their grief journey with love and compassion.