KAAAWA (KHNL) - While the war rages on in Iraq, here at home, a Kaaawa woman is spending the holiday without her husband. He died in 2003 as a result of the Mideast conflict. On this Christmas, she honors her husband's memory.
Louise James takes a stroll along the beach her husband loved.
"He thought he was the luckiest person in the world," she said. "For him, the glass was always half full."
Marine Lieutenant Colonel John James was 49 when he died on New Year's Eve three years ago.
"It's like a piece of you is just missing," said Louise James. "A piece of your heart is gone, a part of your soul is gone. There's just this big puka in your stomach."
For a while, she left the house gate open, and wait for the familiar rumble of John's Harley motorcycle.
"I just couldn't bear to close it at the end of the day," Louise James said. "I guess that was probably the one thing: realizing he wasn't coming home."
Eventually, she started closing the gate.
Through the support of family and friends, Louise pulled through. She has this advice for recent widows:
"As hard as it may seem now, there is light at the end of the tunnel," she said. "There is healing that takes place. There is acceptance that eventually happens."
She accepts her husband's passing and remembers the kind of man John was.
"I think his strong point was just loving life to the fullest and loving people," she said.
So on this Christmas, Louise visits his makeshift gravesite and celebrates.
"This is really been the first year that, I think, the family have felt like being able to celebrate, celebrate his life and not so much mourn his death," she said.
And while he is no longer physically here, Louise said John is very much alive.
"I wish you were here, but he is," she said. "He's here in my heart. He's here in Kaaawa at his spot. His heart and soul is here."
Here in Hawaii, here with his family.
Louise credits an organization called Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors or TAPS.org for helping her through the grieving process. She said she wants to celebrate her husband's life because no one loved life as much as he did.