PETERSBURG, Va. -- At the Phillips-Lee home time-honored traditions are sacred.
The stockings are hung with care and twinkling lights welcome the season.
“We put the tree up before Thanksgiving. It puts you in the holiday spirit. We cherish the moments,” Raven Phillips-Lee said. “We took Christmas pictures every year."
Raven Phillips-Lee holds on tight to memories because she knows Christmas cheer always gives way to December tears.
“It takes me back,” she said. “December 30. It is a day you never forget. I remember it like it was yesterday.”
Six years ago her husband Jabari Lee was taken too soon.
“They tried to rob him, and they took his life,” Raven said.
Her husband of 12 years was shot and killed in Petersburg.
Jabari’s death meant that Raven and the couple’s three daughters would need to carry on alone.
“I went through my grieving period. My daughters and I still grieving. I still cry,” Raven said.
For Raven, it was a heavy burden to bear.
"I’m just emotional six years later,” Raven said. “We miss him. If we could bring him back, we would.”
But she couldn’t give up.
“We were childhood sweethearts, so he was all I knew. We were together over 20 years,” Raven said.
When another friend’s husband passed, Raven reached out offering support.
“I noticed a few women in our community that lost their spouses. What can I do,” Raven asked.
Raven could speak from experience.
“In the blink of an eye things change,” she said. “It's a matter of letting them know you can do it. If I can do it. You can do it.”
She saw an even greater need, so she decided to act.
“My organization is called WAVE incorporated,” Raven said. “It stands for Women Against Violence Empowerment.”
The non-profit helps women who have lost loved ones through sickness, accidents, or violence.
“This is what is getting me through. See the other women coming up going ‘I can do it.’ It shows my organization is benefiting. If it's just one person, my organization is benefiting,” Raven said.
Her group helps with counseling, education, and employment. Raven wants fellow widows to know they’re not alone.
“I try to be a vessel,” Raven said. “If you need me call me any time of day. I’m going to answer. I’m going to be here if you need me.”
Her journey is now in book form.
“It is my story. The good, bad ugly and this is how it turned out,” Raven said. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel pretty much.”
The end of each December will always be a time of traditions, memories joy, and sadness.
“Six years later. We miss him a whole lot,” Raven said.
During the season of giving, she is using her tragedy as motivation to help others.
“He is our angel. He watches us and protects us,” Raven said.
By providing a shoulder to lean on Raven is slowly mending her heart.
“By my giving speaking and writing it creates the healing in me, so we continue to move on from there,” says Raven.
Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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