Steven Kane loved Christmas, reveled in decorating the house with bright lights and baking cookies with his daughters.
But this year, Brightwaters resident Kane, 57, a safety engineer at Brookhaven National Laboratory who died on Nov. 1 after being struck while cycling by a driver charged with driving high on methadone with four children in the car, is gone -- and his family struggles with the ache of enduring the normally festive holidays at a time when their grief is still palpable and raw.
"Besides losing my husband and a father, which has been devastating to our family, we have had to face the holidays in such a short time since he was killed," Barbara Kane, Steven's wife, said. "Our hearts are broken."
Kane, his wife said, loved decorating the house with Christmas lights, cooking the holiday dinner, and spending a "marathon weekend" making Christmas cookies with his daughters, Carol and Susan, and their husbands Michael and Jason.
"Our tears and sadness have overwhelmed us," she said, crying. "We can't face doing our favorite family traditions."
Her husband, she said, "was so looking forward to doing this in the future, with his new granddaughters Evelyn and Lillian."
She added that her heart goes out to other families who have lost a loved one because of a "senseless death" or illness.
Looking ahead, Kane said the family would like to organize a cycling ride in her husband's memory.
Kane's sister, also named Barbara, said the holidays have been more difficult to endure than the family had anticipated. "It's been a hard holiday season for us all. I have no lights or tree up this year -- and this is my favorite holiday. It's just too difficult to be in a festive mood."
She added that said she can't drive by a house decorated with "tons" of lights and yard decoratons without thinking of him. "It makes me smile when I see a truly gaudy house, with more lights than the Vegas strip, and think that Steven would think it was beautiful -- and would be trying to finagle Barbara to let him put up even more next year. But there won't be a next year in our family."
Instead, Barbara Kane said, "Our house is dark, as are our moods. The Christmas cookies that he so meticulously planned and decorated will not be made this year. It’s just too hard for his family to think of him and his hours of preparation for the simplest task -- though there was nothing simple about it to the engineer in him. It is hard to be joyous and celebrate when we have had such a major loss in our lives."
Instead, she said, his family is focused on remembering the meaning of his life, to help them get through their first Christmas without him.
They are trying, she said, "To remember the gift that God gave us and the joy that Jesus brought to the earth. To remember the peace we all felt growing up sitting in St. Peters by the Sea during the holidays. The sheer beauty of hearing the boys' choir singing carols and the love we all had for each other. For this is a time of healing and renewed strength. To remember his life and the gift Steven gave many of us, especially the people that were impacted by what he accomplished through his job as a safety engineer; people that may not have been able to be with their families due to an accident that was prevented by him."
She added that families should remember how precious life can be -- and how everything can change in an instant. "We will forever remember Steven, a loving husband, father, brother and son. None of us will be able to see a Christmas cookie or holiday lights without being reminded of the life that was taken so tragically on Nov. 1, 2012. Steven, we miss you. Merry Christmas," she said.
Ronald Kane, Steven's father, remembered happier Christmases. "Christmas has always been a fun time in the Kane household. As in most large families -- Steven was the oldest of seven children -- Christmas morning was punctuated by the sounds of wrapping paper being torn apart and the shrill screams of delight as present after present was revealed," he said. "The floor space was littered with debris -- paper, ribbon and bows scattered about. My son Steven was looking forward to having this familiar scene transferred now to his household as he was blessed this year with two grandchildren courtesy of his twin daughters. There will, however, be no joy this year. Torn by the sorrow that these memories provide as the newly blessed great-grandfather I will be sitting home instead, quietly remembering Christmas past."
Susan Kane Smith, Kane's daughter, said Christmas will never be the same. "Many of our traditions are just too painful right now and probably will be for many years. But, I find myself more focused on the true meaning of Christmas and I take joy in knowing that I will see my father again when the Lord calls me to his side."
At work at BNL, colleague Linda Greves said Kane's absence is felt across the board. "Steve was larger than life and a one of a kind person. Our group still misses him every day," she said. The holidays only emphasize this sad fact. The empty office in the hallway is a constant reminder of our loss. His chair is left empty at our group meetings in the conference room, showing nobody could fill his shoes nor his chair."
Kane's sister, Carole Stevens, said the holidays are bleak without her brother.
"How sad, flowers will sit on the alter at church in memory of Steven and eventually be tossed out. Thousands of dollars will be donated to LiveStrong in his memory, and when a cure is found, he will not be thanked. His memory will taper down to us, his family and a white cross marking the scene of the crime. I will work on forgiveness and cry on Christmas Day."
And for Carol Pascino, Steven's daughter, the joy of her baby's first Christmas is dimmed by grief.
"It doesn't really feel much like the holidays." Her father, she said, "is missing his granddaughter's first Christmas and her reactions to all the new events she is experiencing. We are struggling to experience the joy of the season. If it wasn't for our daughter we would not have put up a Christmas tree. We are focusing on spending time as a family; that is the only thing that brings us solace."
She added, "It's hard to express what we are feeling as there are no words to describe the depths of our pain without him," she said. "All we want for Christmas is to have him back."