It is still hard for Cookie West to talk about her son.
Lee West died on Jan. 31, the victim of a house fire at his 316 Virginia Ave. home.
But even as she mourns the loss of her 15-year-old son, West and her two daughters continue to give back to the community that embraced her family following Lee's death.
"We are planning a free community Christmas party from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center. We will have pizza and cookies available from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m., and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. we will hold a family basketball tournament. We are asking each team that enters the tournament to be all family members. They can be brothers or sisters, parents, aunts or uncles. We just want each team to be from the same family," said West.
This isn't the first event West has arranged to remember Lee. She held a birthday party to celebrate what would have been her son's 16th birthday in July that saw 1,500 people join her at Belleview Park
"The summer event was fantastic. The entire park was filled with people. It was far more people than I ever expected ... ," noted West. "The Steubenville Fire Department will be at the community Christmas party Saturday. They are excited about coming to the party. They have a hard job to do, and I appreciate their support. We want to explain how Lee passed. So many people asked why Lee didn't climb out a window. But it was the carbon monoxide that got to Lee. And carbon monoxide is odorless and tasteless. We all need to be aware of fire safety.
"I had two fire alarms in my house, but they weren't enough. I encourage people to get carbon monoxide detectors. Don't think about them when it is too late," she added. "The holiday season makes it all harder for me. But God makes it more manageable. Lee always wanted to give back to the community. There are bad things in our community, but I want to do things to help promote the positive sides of our community. We all need to promote family, love and Jesus Christ in our lives."
Prayer and faith have helped Cookie deal with the loss of her son.
"I remember when I was praying God came to me and said Lee was with the angels. I told God I was OK because Lee was with him. The only way to function and to be who I am is through the grace of God. I know how my heart feels, but I have God, and I have more good days than bad ... ," she said. "I still have people come up to me and say they are praying for me. Every day is tough for me. No one day is less tough than another day. I have had hard days and long days. But at the same time, I am so encouraged by the youth of the community. The youth are very compassionate, loving and caring."