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In memory of children who died too soon

December 10, 2018 GMT

“For us, grief is the new normal,” DeeAnn Camp said. “But it is not a sign of weakness, it is the price of love.”

About 70 members of The Compassionate Friends gathered at Life Church Sunday for a candlelight vigil memorializing their children, their grandchildren, their siblings who were taken too soon.

Over 600 chapters — in all 50 states and numerous countries — did the same, synchronized by time zones to “create a band of light around the globe,” said Rome chapter founder Sandra Stinson.

Some local families have been attending the annual vigil for two decades; for others, including one who lost a child last week, it’s the first year. They went home with one of the poinsettia pots that decorated the dais, donated by a grower in Alabama and by West End Florist in memory of their grandchild.

“Maybe they just can’t do a Christmas tree but a poinsettia could help,” Stinson said.

Tucked among the flowers were framed photos of each lost loved one and throughout the ceremony a slide show displayed pictures families shared of happier times.

Following the opening prayer by Pastor Jason Stockton, Stinson presided over the lighting of the ceremonial candles. There are five: One for grief, one for courage, one for memories, one for love and one for hope. It’s the hope those who are gone will live on through their families, Stinson said, “that their life continues to make a difference in the world.”

April and Clint Helton are determined to make that true for their son, Caleb Keller.

The Model High School senior was four days away from graduating in May when his young life was cut short by a car wreck. April said she started crafting, making floral wreaths, to take her mind off her loss.

“It grew so much, I now have an online store, Lulu Blu Co, on Etsy,” she said. “All the money raised goes into a scholarship fund.”

The nonprofit Caleb’s Movement has already held several fundraisers and arranged a donated car for a 2018 graduate in Caleb’s class. April said plans are to award a scholarship to a MHS student each year.

“We’re targeting a kid who came from a hard life, who is trying to turn their life around,” she said. “A lot of good kids aren’t eligible for scholar-ships because they’re not book-smart. We hope to be able to cover their first full year at a vocational college, and if they keep their grades up they could find other scholarships then.”

Other bereaved parents find other ways to cope. Stinson said the sup-port group, whose credo begins “You’ll never walk alone,” offers help.

There’s a regular meeting on the third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. in the lower classrooms of Redmond Regional Medical Center, 501 Redmond Road. Anyone is welcome. They’ve also started a more casual get-together, a casual dinner at Fuddruckers, 595 Riverside Parkway, on the fourth Thursdays at 6:30 p.m.

“When you’ve lost a child, it’s hard to get back out in the world again. It helps to have people who understand,” Stinson said. “There’s a lot of sharing and talking about our children, but there’s a lot of laughter, too.”