By Wade Coggeshall
AVON — "I wish you didn't have to be here," said the Rev. Ben Keckler to a small gathering of people Saturday morning at the Avon Town Hall Park.
They were there for Hendricks Regional Health's seventh annual Walk to Remember. The event commemorates the lives of children who have died at any age.
"We want to be as supportive of you in your journey as we possibly can," said Keckler, who directs HRH's pastoral care and chaplaincy program.
Families and couples braved cold temperatures to reflect on the lives of lost loved ones. They marked their memories with ribbons bearing their names that were pinned to a wreath. They also made tiny boats with their names written on them, which were sailed on the park's pond. Officials with the Plainfield Fire Territory later collected and returned them to the families.
"No matter how cold it is on the outside, you know your heart's been warmed," Keckler said. "We want to pay attention to that. It's our full intention to give honor to each of you in your journey."
He added that while the grief does eventually get better with time, that's not really what the grieving process should be about. Rather, it's dealing with each of the changes that happen in life.
Along the way, Keckler says everyone experiences varying emotions and it's OK to be mad and/or sad.
"If you're trying to figure it out, good luck," he said. "Most things in life can't be. 'Why?' That's the greatest unanswered question in life."
Ultimately, Walk to Remember is meant to show mourners there are many others sharing their experience.
"You're not alone, even though there are many times when you'll feel that way," Keckler said. "There's a whole army of folks who understand your pain - even if your pain is ultimately different from theirs. What today is about is making sure you remember."
Some attendees were here for the first time. Others have attended multiple times, while some have been at every Walk to Remember.
Teresa Thomas is one person who hasn't missed once. She lost a baby daughter 10 years ago. Thomas read a poem during the ceremony titled "Sail On!"
"After three years I didn't think I needed a support group, but it turns out I did," she said. "My advice to anyone in this situation is don't be afraid. There are more people going through what you're going through than you may think."
Keckler said some who've suffered a loss such as this can move on more quickly than others.
"But not everybody can do that," he said. "Some people like to hold on forever. This serves as a way for that to happen."
Walk to Remember corresponds with October being National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, so proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
HRH provides the following bereavement support groups:
- Comfort Zone (Survivors of Suicide) from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday of each month;
- Working Through Your Grief from 6 to 7:30 p.m. every other Wednesday;
- Emerging from 10 to 11:30 a.m. each Tuesday; and
- Maintaining from 10 to 11:30 a.m. each Thursday.
All meetings are in conference room one on the first floor of Hendricks Regional Health in Danville (enter through the east entrance). For more information, call 745-3417 or visit the website at hendricks.org/support-groups.