ROCKTON, Ill. (WIFR) -- The holidays are an exciting time for many families, but for others, it can mean some painful memories.
A special visitor is starting Christmas off a little early for the Carlson children.
"You gotta love these kids because they've been through a lot. It's just Heaven on Earth to see that smile," says Santa.
Reminding them that Christmas can still be special, even if your whole family can't be there to enjoy it.
Melissa Carlson lost her husband Kurt earlier this month.
"He had small cell carcinoma of the left lung that metastasized into his brain and he had a stroke and he was in remission for two months," says Carlson.
After those two months, the carcinoma came back.
"He was complaining that he couldn't breathe, and so we took him to the doctor and they said it came back and he was too weak to do chemo again," says Melissa.
That's where Northern Illinois Hospice came into the picture. Now they're finding one last way to make this season a little easier for the Carlsons after losing Kurt.
"For them Christmas was something very very special. To have his spirit kept alive, and I think it means very much, and you can see that with this family," says Social Worker for Northern Illinois Hospice Linda Baumert.
"Because that's what Christmas is all about is the kids, and the younger they are, the better it is."
The Carlson family is also having a benefit to pay for funeral expenses on Thursday, January 11. It will be at Backyard Grill and Bar in Roscoe from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.