HEALDSBURG -- The holidays are a time when many of us gather around the table to share a meal, but for some, it's also a reminder of the seat that sits empty for the loved ones we've lost.
Monique Soltani is the creator and host of Wine Oh! TV, a show that features stories about Wine Country. She started the show about 13 years ago. It was also a dream she shared with her husband Mark.
"We would write out notes together in chicken scratch of what we thought Wine Oh! TV could be." Monique explained.
Her show was doing well, airing on Comcast and several streaming channels. But that all changed after one phone call.
"He [Mark] called with the news that he had stage IV incurable colon cancer. At that moment I left production as soon as I could in Italy and went home to be with my family." Monique remembered.
Mark passed away 15 months after his diagnosis, leaving Monique to raise their twin girls on her own.
"We lost everything. Then COVID came and we lost community," Monique said.
She went on to talk about what she missed the most.
"It was someone to share a meal with, it was not these big bucket list wishes, it was joining in a communal meal around the table, having a glass of wine, connecting with people," she said. "And I thought about when I come back and when I bring my show back, this is the through line. This is the thing that connects us. This is what makes us human."
This will be the fourth holiday that Monique and her daughters will be without Mark, but she welcomes the season. It's a time when people call and check in.
"In a way the holidays are a little easier," Monique said. "I will tell you why: because around the holidays, everyone is checking in on you. You are surrounded by joy and love and people. What makes grief better? People."
She also says the best way to remember a loved one who has passed is by sharing their story.
"I will say what I said at my husband's funeral: 'Don't tell me you're sorry. Tell me a story.' My husband's biggest fear was that his children wouldn't remember him. We stay alive through stories." Monique said.
She also makes it a point to remind everyone the importance of getting screened for colon cancer. Doctors recommend a colonoscopy every 10 years starting at age 45.
After a four year break, Monique is back with a new season that you can find on Wineoh.tv.
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