When you are sorrowful look again in your heart,
and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

~ Kahlil Gibran, from"The Prophet"

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Please, Light a Candle on Sunday

The Compassionate Friends is an organization that provides vital support to bereaved families through a nationwide network of Chapters and with numerous online resources.

Last June I began attending meetings at our local Chapter, and I must say it was initially with great reservation. Typically not one to do the group grieving thing, I decided to go to the first one just to see what it was all about, figuring I had nothing to lose. If it wasn't for me I could walk out the door afterward and never return. At that very first meeting I learned it was for me.

I found solace in being with my own kind, and now attend the monthly meetings where we talk about topics of relevance to us all. The deaths of our children have come in many forms ~ illnesses, suicides, accidents ~ but there are enough parallels in the aftermath and devastation we all experience, and we easily find common ground.

We speak about our children ~ openly, freely. For a couple of hours I don't have to pretend everything is fine if it's not. In my day to day life I often find myself holding back in situations to spare the listener feelings of discomfort, not wanting to burden them with my heavy load. Not so at the meetings.  I can be unguarded, and what's said there, stays there. It's a safe place. I can go from happy to angry to tearful in 1 minute 13 seconds and no one bats an eyelash.  No judgement is passed. I'm not considered psychotic.  We tell stories, share survival techniques and we listen to one another's words with respect. We laugh, we cry, we eat cookies and we feel less alone in our collective yet unique grief over the deaths of our children.

At the end of every gathering we join hands, and each of us says our child's name aloud, "I remember Erin..." ~ a unified, connected circle of reverence for the ones we struggle daily to live without. Personally, a moment of holiness that steels me and helps me to walk out the door and face life without Erin.

On Sunday, Dave and I will attend our first Candle Lighting Ceremony,
an annual event detailed below.
Group members describe the ceremony as spiritual, beautiful, sacred...

The Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting unites family and friends around the globe in lighting candles for one hour to honor and remember children who have died at any age from any cause. As candles are lit at 7 p.m. local time, creating a virtual wave of light, hundreds of thousands of persons commemorate and honor the memory of children in a way that transcends all ethnic, cultural, religious, and political boundaries.

Now believed to be the largest mass candle lighting on the globe, the Worldwide Candle Lighting, a gift to the bereavement community from The Compassionate Friends, creates a virtual 24-hour wave of light as it moves from time zone to time zone.

Hundreds of formal candle lighting events are held and thousands of informal candle lightings are conducted in homes as families gather in quiet remembrance of children who have died, but will never be forgotten.

The Worldwide Candle Lighting started in the United States in 1997 as a small Internet observance but has since swelled in numbers as word has spread throughout the world of the remembrance.

In 2009, information was submitted to TCF's national website on services in 15 countries outside the United States. In total, we received nearly 530 services. TCF has been joined in recent years by chapters of several organizations including MISS, MADD, Parents of Murdered Children, SIDS Network, Gilda's Club, and BPUSA and services were held in all 50 states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. There is no way to know how many hundreds of additional services were held in the U.S. and around the world without the information being to us.

The Compassionate Friends and allied organizations were joined in 2009 by local bereavement groups, churches, funeral homes, hospitals, hospices, children's gardens, schools, cemeteries, and community centers. Services have ranged in size from just a few people to nearly a thousand.

You are also invited to post a message in the Remembrance Book which will be available during the event at TCF's national website. Last year in that short one day span, thousands of messages were received and posted from every U.S. state and Washington D.C., every territory, as well as dozens of other countries, some in foreign languages. The Remembrance Book will remain accessible to read until the 2011 Worldwide Candle Lighting.

What an extraordinary thought... all those lights burning in all those places at the same time.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Please consider pausing on Sunday evening, when the hubbub of the weekend has settled, to light a candle in your home at 7:00 PM, in memory of Erin and any other child who has touched your life and left this world far too soon. Think of the ways those individuals have impacted you. Say a prayer or read poems or inspirational, reflective quotes. Play some music. Imagine their lights shining forth. Speak their names out loud. Tell stories of times past. I remember when...

Yesterday, a friend shared one of her fond memories of Erin that I hadn't thought about for such a long time ~ when she used to join in with the "big girls". She's pictured
here, with the cheerleaders from Chris' 8th grade class
when she was three years old

and here, with Sarah's 8th grade group the following year
when she was four.

She reminded me of how Erin loved to tag along with the older kids - never intimidated and certain that she could fit right in with all of them. I couldn't find photos from the Pet Parade day she wrote about, but I think these tell the same story. Thank you for sharing this memory with me. Remembrances of a healthy Erin. A specific recollection of one's child is one of the greatest gifts you can bestow upon parents. Dave and I had such fun searching through the albums to find these, and then remembering how wonderful those days were. Weren't we so lucky to have her?! This is the stuff that keeps us sane.

If you feel comfortable, please share an I remember when... in a comment below. Your thoughts truly help us move forward.

And please, light your candles.
Spread the word.
Thank you.


  1. To Erin, I was..Mrs. BDecember 11, 2010 at 8:35 AM

    I remember when, that cute little Kindergartner came through the door, the hair cut...no muss, no fuss. THAT is how I remember Erin. Always happy and ready for the action the day whould hold. Not a "girly-girl." A tough little cookie who could hold her own.
    Sweet very sweet! BUT- the hair cut was ALL ERIN!!

  2. I remember one time when I was warned not to give a certain little girl named Erin ice cream while she sat waiting for her mom to finish work in the school office. I asked if Erin could help me take things upstairs to a closet. We stood in the locked closet and ate ice cream sandwiches left over from the teachers hot lunch. We were walking through the teachers lounge when her mother called on the PA and said "Aren't you two done up there?" We both laughed and Erin said "we are soooooooooo done".

  3. I remember when the girls were 13 and the JO's were in Houston. The hotel was close to the convention center but it was so HOT, HUMID and RAINY the entire trip that they had to be drive(by you and Dave) back and forth to the convention center everyday. What they needed was a nice dip in the hotel pool to cool off and relax after a hard day on the court, but the RAIN came at every opportunity the girls had to swim. But that wasn't so bad since the hotel pool as no bigger than a hot tub and the girls would have needed to take turns in the pool anyway. When the tournament was over they had one more night in town and were switching to a hotel closer to the airport WITH A REAL POOL. Finally a chance to swim, one of Erin's favorite activities. BUT, Houston also had a Great America and alot of the team wanted to go there instead of swimming (Roller Coasters NOT one of Erin's favorite activities). Being the team player that Erin was, she spent the rest of the day and night at Great America with her team. I don't think they got her on any of the Roller Coasters though.

    Sweet memories,
    Martha D

  4. I'm very thankful that you have found solace in this group. I know that they do wonderful work, and have personally done the candle-lighting here at home on those nights once a year. It's a beautiful way to honor our children.
    Thank you for sharing what Compassionate Friends means to you. (I'm sure your local chapter would like to read this, too.)

  5. I remember meeting Erin when she was only a year older than Gabby is now - and the confidence that kid had is what I wish for my girls (heck, I wish I had it sometimes)! But Erin was always sweet and thinking of others and that's a kid to be proud of! Gabby never got the chance to know Erin, but I've told her about her amazing grace and beauty - and so in honor of those who lost their fight with cancer Gabby donated her hair to Lock of Love yesterday (and I will honestly say I could have seen Erin doing the same thing!)

    And Mary - while I would never wish the pain you go through on anyone I am truly grateful that you have found others who can honestly say the understand how you feel, how you are doing, and that your only wish would be to have your kids back. I'm glad you have found a place you don't feel you don't have to pretend - and we'll be sure to light a candle to tomorrow.

  6. We will light a candle for Erin on Sunday night remembering her as a beautiful, kind young woman who continues to inspire with the strength and courage she showed as she faced her great battle. God bless you all!

    With love,
    the Reisel/Delaney family

  7. There will be a candle lighting at our home this evening in honor of Erin -- how very often we think of the "have fun" and the joy that she brought to so many -- and the "fear that mom will be fired" when a certain branch was broken -- still makes me laugh for so many reasons. Our love to you all -- you certainly will be in our hearts this week.

    Denise & Jon

  8. It is time right now, and a candle is light in memory of precious Erin. So close to her anniversary date also. God Bless her and all of you.
    Lin Bresnahan

  9. My candle is burning right now. I remember the day you dropped Sarah off at UWM that first day of volleyball preseason her freshman year. It was time for everyone to say good-bye to their families and Sarah walked into the room and turned around to face the team with her back to you and Erin. I was facing Sarah and behind her, was you holding Erin's hand leading her out of the building. Erin stopped and turned back and had the cutest, little look on her face like, "I don't like the idea of leaving Sarah here....." She must have been 8 at the time. It was so adorable.

  10. ^^ Chrissy Schurla

  11. A candle is burning here in memory of Erin and all of you tonight. I love all the photos on the side they bring back a lot of memories. Much love to everyone.


  12. Hi:

    Our candle is burning, but none of us really needs one. Erin's light still shines bright for all who remember her.

    Let's face it, Mary. You may have thought you were the Volleyball Coach, Athletic Director, etc. at SC, but we all know who really ran the show....Erin! I still picture Erin positioned front and center in front of the first place trophy when the girls won the Hodgkins Volleyball Tournament. She was a "gym rat" from day one, following her older brothers and sister. She'd sit/play on the sidelines, in the hall and helped clean up/put equipment away afterward. What a charmer! What a blessing! Mary and Dave: "You done good with all four of your children". God bless.

    Sandy and Rich

  13. Dear Mrs. Potts,

    It's so funny that you posted that picture of the 8th grade cheerleaders from mine and Chris' class! Because I didn't have the opportunity to spend time with or get to know the amazing girl that Erin became (besides hearing all about what a basketball star she was on my dad's team) that picture represents exactly how I remember Erin! She was the most adorable little cheerleading mascot that we could have asked for and she did a great job of taking all the attention away from our most likely less then stellar cheerleading skills!


    Katie Boyle

  14. I remember all the pool games. Made-up games using rubber balls thrown rocket fast, floating mats jumped on again and again, and over it all the laughter, yelling and the "you missed!" that accompanies all kids' games. Warm memories...


  15. Oh, so sorry I missed the candle lighting (no internet in the boonies this weekend), but I will look forward to it next year. I love the image of the light moving across the time zones, so beautiful.

    I remember Erin as a very cute and happy little girl... at the zoo, in the pumpkin fields, playing outdoors...always a few steps ahead of the big kids. And her smile lit up the world.