“She’d always loved Halloween. A magic night. A night when anything could happen. Monsters could be real. Magic could whisper in the air.”

Cynthia Eden

After you lose a child, no holiday is ever the same again. I try to be strong and continue traditions and push through for the sake of my other family members, but the loss is always there–the elephant in the room. Halloween is no exception. I am haunted by memories of Halloween past.

I’ll never forget Emily’s first Halloween in 1997. She was just seven months and I dressed her up as a pumpkin; not very original, I know, but it was so much fun for me. One of my favorite photos of her is from when she was about three and she picked out a little pink fairy costume. She was caught up in the moment of being that magical creature when I snapped this picture. 

Memories of Halloween
Emily as a pink fairy at age 3

At the age of 9, she was into frogs, I mean really into frogs! She had stuffed frogs and I even painted frogs in her bathroom. She made her own costume that year. She was “Super Frog!” Emily never outgrew her childlike love for the fantasy of Halloween. At 13, I was worried the “Little Red Riding Hood” costume she picked out was too provocative and insisted she wore leggings and a t-shirt with it. 

Every year we went to Zoo Boo, a spooky trick-or-treat event at our local Zoo and we usually had a Halloween party for the kids at our house. Emily loved planning everything for that party, from transforming our basement into a haunted house, to the games we played. We blindfolded the kids and peeled grapes for “eyeballs” and used cooked spaghetti for “brains.” She helped me dip Nutter Butter cookies into white chocolate to make ghosts. The trick-or-treating in our neighborhood looked like a Normal Rockwell painting, with parents following their children from house to house as the sun began to set. It wasn’t lost on me at the time how lucky I was to experience it all. 

Our Halloween party tradition continued through Emily’s freshman year when she had her first teenage boy-girl party. We spent all day getting ready and making treats. I was a nervous wreck. I wasn’t ready for my little girl to grow up so fast. My husband and I alternated bringing new chip bowls and pizzas down the basement every 30 minutes. Despite our best efforts to watch over them, I later learned that one of Emily’s friends experienced her first kiss at that party. 

These Halloween memories remind me of how involved I was in Emily’s life and how excited she was for every holiday. She loved every single tradition. Her childhood was filled with experiences like these. As an empty nester, my Halloweens are now pretty quiet. I still decorate the front door and hand out candy, but the days of planning kid parties and taking them trick-or-treating are over. The only thing that remains is the magical presence of Emily in my heart this Halloween.

Faith, Hope & Courage,

7 responses

  1. Susan Bartz Herrick Avatar
    Susan Bartz Herrick

    Beautiful and so true. We must look back with joy through the hole in our heart.

    1. Your story is so loving.
      We lost our Tommy Dec 22,2021 to fentanyl. He lived at home with us his whole life. He had a great job and was getting his masters degree.
      We were at my others sons house waiting for him to join us for Xmas when he didn’t answer his phone.
      The police said they would find the person who he got the pill from but that didn’t happen.

      As you can tell I am so heart broken. So many whys, should ofs and what ifs. Not sure how to look through the hole in my heart to see the good.

      I am sorry about Emily !! I am sorry for all of us parents that are walking this path.

      I read all your posts!

      Take care.

  2. Cheri Olson Avatar
    Cheri Olson

    I don’t know you Angela nor did I know Emily, but seeing your pictures of a beautiful girl gone too soon make me sad. You were so busy. How did you have the time for parties for kids? My heart aches for you.

    1. Angela Kennecke Avatar
      Angela Kennecke

      I always spent all my time when I wasn’t working with my children. When my kids were small, I cut back on my hours. I loved planning those parties. I had some help from my aunt with one of the parties too! So much fun!

  3. Kimberly Heisinger Avatar
    Kimberly Heisinger

    How very traditional things were back then! Once in the many doctors visit Dr. Blake asked me what we do for fun with my daughter Jessica. I told him we played board games and cards and would go to visit my inlaws in the farm. He started chuckling and I said is that corny or what? He replies no he wished he could can that and sell it! Halloween was a favorite of Jessicas too. I made corny costumes for her and her older sister. She still loves Halloween but now she has t-shirts and earrings and this morning she looked like a Halloween model. Time goes so fast! So she is helping grandma and grandpa hand out toothbrushes and toothpaste to our grandkids. I have a special olive green poncho that I bought for her treat. She’s going to love it!

  4. Kerry Peluso Avatar
    Kerry Peluso

    Angela — I share so many of your feelings. Halloween particularly haunts me as it was Sam’s favorite holiday since she was a child. Both of my children planned costumes starting in August. As an adult and high school art teacher who knew how to do injury/movie paint, she organized large groups of high school students to do a haunted walk for the town each year. Crowds came from all over, and everyone loved it. My husband and I went every year and they did an amazing job. –Now, as I see Halloween decorations, it is painful -as it now means that anniversary day is coming. Sam left us very late on October 30, and I found out about it at 2am on Halloween in 2018. The worst day that I will ever live. Now a day of so many happy memories brings pain. -I am now in Vegas for a work conference. Sam and I came here alone for a trip nine years ago and later as a family trip. –As I rode to my hotel in the cab, as I looked out, so many images were a “trigger” for pain. I thought about how, if we still had our Sam, those would be triggers for happy memories and feelings. These are happy memories at the core, like so many other memories. Such a loss to have many of my most treasured memories transition to bizarre pain triggers with my mind almost confused because of the conflicting emotions. —Anyway, thanks for sharing. My thoughts are with you.

    1. Angela Kennecke Avatar
      Angela Kennecke

      Kerry, I think of you often! Thank you for your reply and I do understand how those memories get triggered. We will never stop missing our girls!

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