BRADLEY COUNTY, TN (Times Free Press) -- When Linda Bates unpacked her Christmas decorations this year, she paused as she unfolded the stockings for her two little grandsons, River and Leland.

She held them in her hands for a long while, then hung them up on the counter ledge. She left them there for about a minute before taking them down and packing them back up. The ache was just too heavy.

Last year, the boys' stockings were packed with candy, toothbrushes and BandAids decorated with cartoon characters. The boys got new bicycles for Christmas and spent the rest of the morning on them, barreling up and down the halls of their grandmother's house.

This year, the house will be quiet.

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