AUSTIN — It's an Austin tradition that people either love or hate: decorating trees along 360 around the holidays.
But for Melanie Holtz, it’s a family tradition to honor the one family member who can’t be with them.
"The pain never goes away,” said Holtz.
Holtz's son Matt died from an epileptic seizure back in 2014. This will be their fifth holiday season without him.
"It's just my little way of coping at the holidays,” said Holtz.
They’ve decorated the tree each year.
"You try to find little things that you can do that make you still want to be here, and so this is one of those things that I actually look forward to doing every year,” said Holtz.
Christmas is tough. They don't decorate at home.
"Happiest time of the year, I hear that mess in the stores, and I'm like really, not for everybody,” said Holtz.
Instead, they decorate a tree here along 360 and try to share Matt with everyone who drives by.
"My biggest fear is that he would be forgotten, and I just want to go shout from the mountains, no he was here, and he mattered, and he was an amazing person,” said Holtz. "It's kind of a way that I can put a big banner up on 360 and go hey this kid, I don't know if you remember him, he was amazing.”
But last weekend someone took those tightly tied decorations off the cedar tree.
"I'm angry and hurt,” said Holtz.
So Holtz came back out to redecorate.
"I couldn't just let that be the end of it,” said Holtz.
One of her cousins even flew in from California to help.
"Yeah it is a tree, but it means a lot to my family,” said Holtz.
A family that will continue the tradition together.
"I don't get any more memories with him, I can't make any new Christmas memories, with him, and so this is my memory with him,” said Holtz.
Holtz and her family plan to take down the decorations after Christmas.
In the future, they want to gather other families who've lost a loved one to decorate trees together.