This past December I had the opportunity, yes, I said opportunity, to attend the Compassionate Friends Candle Lighting Service at Shepherd of the Valley. It really opened my eyes to something I cannot even imagine in my life. These people gather together once a year to honor and remember their children who died way too soon. It was such a blessing that God purposely put me there to witness what these people are living through every single day of their lives.
Susan Ferber, the SOTV parish nurse, asked if I’d like to help by making coffee, serving treats, and helping direct people towards the service in the chapel. Thank you, Susan. I saw the grief in their faces. I watched as they lit remembrance candles and spoke the names of their loved ones…voices cracking and sometimes barely audible. The music and readings were perfect.
There was a slideshow of these children…so many, many beautiful children. These family members have buried children of all ages…babies, toddlers, kids, teenagers…so many teenagers and young adults. I am amazed at the strength and courage of these people. I am not a member of this special group...and for that, I’m truly thankful…so thankful for my three healthy children and five grandkids.
I am honored I was given this chance to feel the love and compassion of these wonderful people and to hear about their children. The parents told me about the smiles, the accomplishments, the dreams...these parents stood in front of me with teary eyes and struggling voices. The emotions of heartache and sorrow filled the room and yet, there was a sense of God’s presence, love, and peacefulness. At the end of the evening, many of these individuals gave me a hug and said thanks for helping. No, I wanted to say thank you to them for sharing such a heartbreaking and personal time of their lives. God’s blessings to these amazing people.
- Linda Sweitzer