‘I thought maybe my husband fell, or something was wrong. When he finally came in, he said nothing. I grabbed his hand and whispered THANK YOU. I could see in his eyes he knew why.’

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“I promised myself when the first snowfall happened this year, I would share a story about my late son Alex. It’s been awhile since I wrote, but not a day I haven’t thought about him. And with snow comes snowman and fun.

EVERYONE in the family thinks I love snow. I do, but I didn’t ALWAYS. It was when the kids were much younger that I LEARNED to love it. When the boys would go to bed, and when they woke up, the first thing they did was look out the window to see if there was snow. If it was snowing at night, it was everything to get them to go to bed. It wasn’t until I let them catch snowflakes on their tongues that they would. If it snowed during the night, both of them would race to get dressed up in their snow gear to be the first to put footprints in the backyard. Many arguments ensued because Adam would kind of win, A LOT. So I settled it by giving one the backyard and one the front yard. And they would trade the next time. Alex liked the front yard because back then we had a pine tree in the front lawn. He would search to see if any birds had nests in it, or even run up on it and watch the squirrels run from it. We decorated the tree with plastic bulbs and lights and bright red garland. And if the snow was just right, we HAD to have a snowman.

Little boy standing outside beside snowman holding snowball
Courtesy of Terry Killoran

Now, making a snowman is no small feat for two small boys, aged 4 and 2. Nor is it for mom, who is taking care of a 4-month-old little girl who joined our family. So when the time came that I could no longer keep them inside with all their energy and excitement, I fed the baby and made her sure she was sleeping comfortably. I took the monitor with me and out we went. We made our snow angels in the fresh snow and as always, the swing set gets used, snow or not. After a snow ball fight and searching for animal footprints, off we went to start rolling three big balls of snow for dad to come home and pile them up. That was daddy’s job. After they were patted tightly we went in for our warm cup of hot chocolate with exactly 6 miniature marshmallows. (no Swiss Miss back then, it was milk warmed up with Hershey’s syrup) To pass the time we colored in books and watched their favorite show, Sesame Street. I finally had to let them play by themselves because dinner doesn’t make itself and soon Audra would be awake to nurse. We all impatiently waited for dad to get home from work.

Little kid sitting in green sled smiling with snow suit on
Courtesy of Terry Killoran

As soon as Mark got home the boys couldn’t wait to tell them about their day and how they needed his help to finish Frosty. He couldn’t help but laugh but I could see he was exhausted. This was a man who started work at 4:30 in the morning and it was now 5 p.m. But right after dinner, before it was too dark, Frosty was put together and the boys finished him up with a carrot and the cutest hat.

I have the best husband and father. This was a man who on weekends umpired baseball games for extra money so I could stay home and raise our children. We had talked about it years before and figured it out that by really watching our spending, I didn’t have to work outside our home. The nice part was I did have some close friends who did work and had great jobs. They wanted to return to work after they had their babies, so I started watching their kids. This gave my children playmates and my husband and I the extra income to make up for me not working. I never looked at it as work, I really didn’t. I loved my children, and the idea of them learning at a young age to share their toys and time really was the reward.

One morning, Mark woke up, got dressed and ran outside to start the car and warm it up. I put together his lunch and made him a cup of coffee and some breakfast. As I waited inside, I noticed he had been out there for quite some time. Since he had no coat on and only his work hat on his head, I thought maybe he fell, or something was wrong with the car. I was in my robe and nightgown as I opened the front curtains to see what was taking him so long. Imagine my surprise as I saw him rolling up some snow into a ball. I thought at first he was making a mate for our Frosty, who had stood firm and solid for a week. That’s when I glanced over and saw OUR Frosty no longer had a head. It was on the ground stomped upon, with his hat missing and his eyes and nose thrown around him. His tree limb arms were also missing, and the scarf was thrown into the bushes. The kids would be so upset their Frosty was now gone. I stood there sipping my coffee, watching for at least 15 minutes. My husband, with no gloves on and only a baseball cap on his head, was working on getting Frosty put back together. My heart was so full of love and admiration for this man. He had rolled up a new head and was determined to put it all together before he went to work.

When he finally came in, he said nothing. He just went quickly into the bedroom to change into dry clothes then came out to get his breakfast. I really couldn’t find the words to say so I just grabbed him and hugged him tightly. He still said nothing as we sat there. When he got up to leave, he gave me a kiss goodbye, and rubbed our daughter’s head with his palm and gave her a small kiss on her sleeping forehead. I grabbed his hand and whispered THANK YOU. I could see in his eyes he knew why.

It wasn’t because he put Frosty back together.

It was because he could not bear to know when he arrived at work, and the boys finally got up, that they would see their funny Frosty all pulled apart lying on the ground; his face all smashed in and his hat gone. He loved his boys that much to make sure their precious Frosty was right there, where he belonged.

Young siblings stand outside in snow gear beside snow man
Courtesy of Terry Killoran

Sure enough, Alex was the first to get up and look out the front window to see if it had snowed anymore and to see how ‘Frosty’ was doing. ‘Mommy, Mommy, come look,’ he said. A bit of panic set in because I thought maybe he was destroyed again or had fallen apart from being quickly put back together. But that wasn’t it at all. ‘Mommy, Frosty took daddy’s hat.’ I looked and yes, Frosty was wearing Mark’s work cap. I hadn’t noticed that it wasn’t on my husband’s head when he came in. Oh boy, the imagination of children! Off Alex scurried to tell Adam that Frosty came ALIVE and took daddy’s work hat. Adam went to the window to see this miracle that Alex proclaimed. He looked and said, ‘Yep, that’s daddy’s hat Alex.’

As the morning went by and my friend dropped her daughter off, the boys quickly became animated and told her the story of Frosty and how he had changed hats in the middle of the night. She listened intently as she undressed her daughter from her coat and got her settled in the high chair. We looked at each other and I gave her a quick wink so she would understand later when I could fully explain. As she left she took a glance at Frosty as the boys stood by the front door. She yelled to the boys, ‘He looks very sporty with his new hat.’ They started jumping around and hugging each other. That snowman was the story of the day in the household. And when Mark came home from work, he complained how cold he was jokingly, and said he couldn’t find his work hat ANYWHERE. The boys giggled and laughed and told them what they thought had happened. Mark never let on. He just listened to the tale of the magic Frosty had done, while they sat on his lap looking out the front window.

Little kids sitting in yard with dad beside snow covered balsam tree
Courtesy of Terry Killoran

A snowman was on our front lawn every year while the kids grew up. They would play for hours; and even though their lips were blue, they would still cry when I dragged them in from the cold. But the promise of hot chocolate always made the tears go away quickly. With EXACTLY 6 marshmallows.

I can tell you the last time a snowman has been on our front lawn. Alex was 23, and he saw the little girl next door trying to build one. With no help in sight, he saw she really wasn’t getting anywhere. So he showed her how it was done. He even had to come in and borrow a hat, scarf and mittens for hers because she didn’t have any extra to finish her snowman. Our Frosty was finished and decked out with a fancy headdress.

Snowman in yard with sparkly pink hat, scarf and gloves
Courtesy of Terry Killoran

Alex finally came in with a little grin on his face. I had been secretly watching from the bedroom blinds and said nothing as he shook off the snow from his coat and pants and went to get a warm cup of coffee. After a few minutes he said that Sarah was outside building a snowman and he gave her a little help. It was a sweet moment for me because I knew without his help, she wouldn’t have been able to do it; build herself a snowman for her front lawn. Also, he didn’t mention we had our own Frosty once again in our front yard.

So the next time you see a snowman, a Frosty is what we like to call them; don’t automatically think some little kid or kids made it. Because I knew personally, a really big kid who loved to play in the snow and could build the best Frosty you’ve ever seen. And it was always made with pure joy and love.”

Profile of man who has since passed wearing black pea coat and gray har
Courtesy of Terry Killoran

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Terry Killoran of Sterling Heights, Michigan. She has been writing about her grief after losing her son on her blog. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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‘Hi Mom, I’m home, wake me up for school at 9, ok? I love you.’ I looked right at him. ‘I love you too, Alex. Get some sleep, it’s late.’ Off to bed we both went.

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