England

The Christmas decorations for loved ones lost

Katie Haines on her wedding day Image copyright Gareth Davies
Image caption Katie Haines died of carbon monoxide poisoning after the boiler leaked at her home in Wokingham

Christmas is a time of togetherness and those absent from festivities can be missed intensely. Three families share tales of the special decorations they hang on the tree to remember loved ones lost.

Every year Avril and Gordon Samuel hang a star on their tree in memory of their daughter Katie Haines, who died of carbon monoxide poisoning two months after her wedding.

"Katie got engaged to Richard on her 30th birthday," said Mrs Samuel. "She was so excited and decided almost immediately that they should have a winter wedding near our Cotswolds home on 12 December 2009.

Image copyright Avril Samuel
Image caption Katie Haines gave her wedding guests a Christmas decoration

"Christmas was always her most favourite time of the year. She thought it would be lovely to give each guest a Christmas decoration, so that their wedding would be remembered each year.

"We looked everywhere and then I saw on an American website these pretty, star-like tree decorations - Katie thought they were perfect.

"My husband and I were going to New York on business and so we ordered them to be sent to our hotel and brought them back to England.

"Katie then added burgundy and cream ribbons to them and wrote each person's name on the little card attached.

Image copyright Gareth Davies
Image caption Katie Haines' with her father Gordon Samuel on her wedding day

"Katie and Richard's wedding was beautiful and it was, without a doubt, the happiest day of her life.

"Two months later, after returning from honeymoon in South America, Katie died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in her home - Richard and his parents were also poisoned but survived.

"We decided to set up a trust in Katie's name to raise awareness of the silent killer.

"Each year we put up Katie's wedding decoration - as do many of her friends - and we remember the beautiful times with our lovely daughter."

Image copyright Linda Mortimer
Image caption Linda Mortimer has been a nurse for 43 years and is mum to Emily, 24, Edward, 23 and Fiona, 21

Linda Mortimer, 61, has decorations that remember two babies and her father.

"My first son was stillborn at 23 weeks and I was due to start maternity leave on Christmas Eve 1993," said Mrs Mortimer. "I remember him as Fred and he's remembered with a teddy ornament on the Christmas tree.

"Five months later I had a miscarriage at 13 weeks and I have a mouse to remember that baby.

Image copyright Linda Mortimer
Image caption The teddy bear ornament remembers Linda Mortimer's stillborn son

"I subsequently had three children in three years who my father called humbugs.

"He died on 13 December 2006 aged 77. In his memory we put a humbug on the tree that year and it's still there today in a gooey mess wrapped in cling film.

"I've given my two daughters a humbug to put on their trees too as they've each got their own homes."

Image copyright Keith Whittaker
Image caption The Whittaker family came up with their decoration tradition last Christmas

Keith and Melanie Whittaker from Taunton have wooden hearts with the names of relatives on their tree.

"Nearly three years ago we became special guardians for two young girls, now aged four and five," said Mr Whittaker. "This took our family to seven as we have three older children who are adults or in their late teens.

"For various reasons the girls are not able to see their birth family so we thought of ways we could remember them at Christmas.

"Last Christmas we came up with the idea of putting names on wooden hearts and attaching them to the Christmas tree.

"It was a great family event where we came up with names of people we love but don't always see on Christmas day and wrote them on the wooden hearts.

"As well as the girls' birth parents, they came up with the names of their siblings, my wife's family in Canada and my relatives who live in the north of England. It was the start of a new tradition that will no doubt continue as our family grows.

Image copyright Keith Whittaker
Image caption Hearts on the Whittaker's tree honour people who have passed away or cannot be with them at Christmas

"This Christmas we unpacked all the decorations and started to put the love hearts on the tree. Each person chose a name that meant a lot to them.

"It gave us a chance to think of them and pray for them more frequently.

"When I saw the heart with my nan's name on it, the children's great nan, it brought a lot of tears as she died earlier in the year.

"She was very precious to us but it brings us comfort knowing that she will be remembered for generations to come and even more so at Christmas."

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