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‘Lights of love,’ a world of support

‘Lights of love,’ a world of support ‘Lights of love,’ a world of support

“Children we remember
Though missing from our sight
In honor and remembrance
We light candles in the night.”
— “Lights of Love”

About 75 people gathered in the cold Sunday night at the Hurley D. Conrad Memorial Bandstand in Corydon to remember children who have died and offer comfort and support for each other.
The first “Compassionate Friends” candlelight ceremony here was part of a simultaneous candlelight ceremony that was to take place all over the world on Sunday. In every time zone at 7 p.m., bereaved parents lit candles to remember their children.
Although there is no local Compassionate Friends support group, Donna Windell and Joyce Wiseman of Corydon saw on the Internet that the global candlelight event would take place, and they wanted to be part of it. They went to a meeting in New Albany to learn more. Just two weeks ago, they asked their friend and counselor, the Rev. Webster Oglesby, pastor of Lincoln Hills Christian Church in Corydon, to lead the program, and he readily agreed. There wasn’t a lot of publicity, other than a mention last week in this newspaper and announcements in a few churches.
“We all share a common bond,” Oglesby told the listeners, who gathered in a half-circle in the darkness in front of the gazebo. It was cold, and some people sniffled or wept. He said, “We are all human beings, we are all Americans, we all live in the same region of the country, and you may have had children to die in your family. That’s a very strong bond. No one else but you knows what that’s all about.”
He said it was crucial to honor the memory of their children. “You never want to forget — you can’t forget.” He said it was healthy for the group to share their common bond.
Oglesby said he and his wife, Joyce, remember a friend named Max who accidentally ingested poison as a five-year-old. He struggled as an invalid until he died at age 17.
The minister lit a candle on a table in front of the bandstand (which already had several framed photographs placed there), he named Max aloud, and then he encouraged each one present to step forward, name their person so all could hear, and light a “light of love.”
Hopefully, he said, they would start a local tradition to recognize and remember deceased children at this time each year.
The Christmas season is especially difficult for mourning parents, Oglesby said, for three reasons: The children may have died at this time of year, or it’s their birthday, or because it’s a long holiday period, when everyone else, it seems, is in a good mood.”
“You’re so aware,” said Windell. “Every time you hear about it, it’s like a knife in the stomach.”
Joyce and Dennis Wiseman lost their son, Scott, 19, last December in a four-wheeler accident. Donna Windell and Bruce Windell lost their daughter, Kerri, 5-1/2 years ago, in a car accident. “Next week she would have been 22,” Donna said sadly
“Scotty died on Kerri’s birthday,” Dec. 17, Joyce said, adding to the irony.
“To share this together, as a group, with others who have experienced the same thing, is beneficial to everybody,” Windell said.
Windell explained that others can’t understand the continual gut-wrenching pain of losing a child unless they suffer the same experience. She said friends avoid you, they don’t know what to say or do to be helpful, and some friends expect parents to just “get over it.” But it’s impossible. “You don’t get over it,” Windell said. “You get through it. You learn to go through your life without our child. Everything is different. Nothing is the same after that. You’re doing everything for the first time.”
Wiseman agreed. She said she couldn’t even bear to go to the store after her son was killed. Friends “try to put themselves there, but they can’t. It’s impossible to do it,” Windell said.
Wiseman read a poem called “Candles Whispering,” and Tammy Crawford, Corydon, read “Lights of Love” in honor of her nephew, Levi Smith, who died at age 16 on March 29, 1996.
After the 45-minute program, many parents lingered, talking quietly in small groups. For some of them, it might have been the first time they were able to talk about their child’s death in public.
Some talked about organizing a local chapter of the Compassionate Friends, a non-profit support group that was founded in Coventry, England, in 1969, following the deaths, three days apart, of two young boys. Acting on a suggestion by a local pastor, the two sets of bereaved parents, who didn’t know each other at first, starting getting together periodically to remember their children, share memories and dreams. The pastor encouraged them to invite other newly bereaved parents. That year, they and others organized a self-help group and reached out to other parents in their community who had lost children.
Because the word “compassionate” kept coming up, the new organization was called “The Society of the Compassionate Friends.”
The first U.S. chapter was started in 1972. There are now more than 600 Compassionate Friends chapters in the United States and hundreds of chapters in other countries.

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