By Sarah Gill-Northcutt

It had been a year since my 18 month-old granddaughter Katie died of a birth defect, and I could still feel the grief.  “Maybe putting up Christmas decorations will make you feel better,” my husband said, handing me the box where we kept the ornament.

“Christmas won’t be the same without Katie,” I said.  I opened the box.  There on top of a pile of tinsel was Katie’s stocking.  I hadn’t thought about what to do with it.  I couldn’t leave it off the mantel.  It would be as if she’d never been part of the family.  But I couldn’t leave it hanging empty either.  What should I do?

On Christmas Day, I found the answer.  I announced.  “I’d like to start a tradition in Katie’s memory.”  I passed around Katie’s stocking, which I’d filled with slips of paper, one for each member of the family.  On each slip was an assignment, to be completed in Katie’s honor:  plant a tree, buy school supplies for an underprivileged kid, donate a book to the library.  Now, every Christmas, Katie’s stocking turns out to be the best gift of all.

From Guideposts, “Pass It On,” December 2004

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