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Candle-lighting event helps deal with loss

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Region – The Children’s Remembrance Support Group participated in the annual Worldwide Candle Lighting Ceremony Dec. 12, bringing bereaved parents and families together to light candles in memory of all children who have died. Kathleen VonBehren of Shrewsbury organized this year’s event at the Manor Restaurant in West Boylston. Candles were lit for an hour all over the world starting at 7 p.m. in New Zealand and then in each of the 24 time zones. The candles created a virtual wave of light around the globe commemorating and honoring the memories of those children who will never be forgotten. Over 70 people joined together at the local event with readings, prayers, songs and shared stories. A long candlelit memory table held photos of the deceased along with their names and ages allowing family members to share what happened and how they are dealing with their sadness and loss.

“Even the good memories hurt, because there is not going to be any more. The ways of honoring those memories stamp them into your heart,” VonBehren said.

This year a personalized memory ornament was created by Annemarie Huberdault, who lost her son Adam five years ago. The crystals with dark red velvet ribbons were hung on the communal tree. Every year a new ornament is created to keep the lost children a part of the holidays.

When it was time to relate personal stories, Jane Terhaar of Shrewsbury spoke movingly of losing her daughter, Jennifer McLaren, who, at the age of 35, went into a coma and died from complications after the birth of her second son.

This is the eighth year that the candle-lighting ceremony has been held. The first evening of remembrance was held outdoors on the Shrewsbury Common. Four years ago, Panagiotis “Peter” Fotiadis of Shrewsbury was killed in an SUV rollover accident. He was the 21-year-old nephew of the owners of the Manor Restaurant. After that tragedy, the family off ered their function room to hold the candlelighting event.

“The observance heightens your awareness of just how many children die and it becomes frightening,” VonBehren said.

“It gives you strength during a really difficul t tim e of the year. Everyone here knows how you feel,” said Charlene Paradise of Shrewsbury, whose son Patrick was killed in a car accident just before his 16th birthday. She then started the Children’s Remembrance Support Group in 2003 in conjunction with a national organization the Compassionate Friends. Sunday night was a chance for bereaved families to come together to share good memories of their children by participating in what is now believed to be the largest mass candle lighting on the globe so that their light may always shine.

VonBehren became involved two years ago after her son, Michael, then an 18-year-old senior at Shrewsbury High School, was killed when a drunk driver speeding the wrong way on Interstate 290 hit him head on. Both drivers died.

Three weeks later she learned about a local support group, which meets at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month at the First Baptist Church on Park Avenue in Worcester. There the VonBehrens found support and comfort from other parents who also have been struggling to deal with the loss of a child.

“The single most profound way I have been helped by this group is in finding ways to honor my son and keep his memory alive,” VonBehren said. “Just their support has helped me so much. I don’t know if I could make it without being able to talk about my son with people who understand my pain and sadness or know that loss.”

Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=8622

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