Last night was the annual Angel of Hope ceremony. We attend every year, despite the cold temperatures that December brings. This year was not only cold, but it was raining as well. We almost did not go because of this. Although we were late, we went for one reason in particular – to support my dad, who we knew would be there rain or shine.
We lost my sister 12 years ago in the most horrible way possible. Our hearts were shattered on that day back in 2001, and our lives will never, ever be the same again. We feel that a part of us died with her. We lost so much on that day. She never really and truly knew how much we love her and how much we would miss her.
When we learned that they were erecting an Angel of Hope statue in our beautiful gardens, we gathered information and knew that we needed to have my sister included in this project. You could purchase bricks on the ground in their memory, or you could purchase a plague on the wall behind the Angel of Hope. We chose to purchase a plaque in honor and in memory of my sister. We did this because the Angel of Hope is for children that have gone on to be with the Lord too soon! Although my sister was an adult, she was still my parent’s child. Their hearts are no less broken just because she was an adult upon her passing than that of a parent that lost a child under the age of 18. We get a lot of looks and questions as to why we included my sister in the Angel of Hope because of her age. She was 32 years old when she passed away. She is still my parent’s child. The Angel of Hope garden is a memorial to the children,
gone but forever remembered, not only by parents, but by grandparents,
brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, and dear caring friends.
For so long it brought tremendous pain when we would go out to the cemetery. When we would go to take flowers to place on her grave, the intense and overwhelming grief would hit us, almost crippling us. Therefore, we decided that another place was needed to honor and pay tribute to my sister for those that just could not bring themselves to visit her grave. We want to celebrate her life, her beautiful life – not focus on how she died. The Angel of Hope provides comfort for us, and we feel a sense of peace come over our hurting hearts when we come together with others that have lost their loved ones as we honor them all during this annual ceremony.
The speakers in our town actually lost their daughter at a very young age in an automobile accident. His little girl and my daughter were in the same class in school. She was a sweet little blonde haired beauty with an infectious smile. I could hardly believe the news coming in from other friends when we were all learning of the car accident shortly after it happened. My daughter lost her precious friend in fifth grade. This ceremony helps my daughter as well to cope with the loss of her dear friend. We feel a connection to the speakers – her parents and her sister – and their pain is real. Her father cries every time he has to read his own daughter’s name out during the ceremony. We feel his pain, we feel the heart break. We cry for his daughter, for my sister, for the loss of each and every one listed and those that are not listed for this ceremony.
They usually begin the service with words from her father, a poem read by her sister, beautiful music to honor our loved ones, and then the names are called out for every child that a brick or a plague was included in the Angel of Hope Garden. The families walk down the path toward the Angel of Hope with her arms stretched out wide as if she is carrying our loved ones up to Heaven to be with our Lord. There is just something so very comforting about the presence of this angel, and we do feel that there are angels around us and God is with us wrapping His loving arms around us, comforting our hurting hearts as only He can. It’s such a short path, but in a moment like this, it feels like it is one of the longest, hardest roads we have ever walked. It seems like it takes forever from the time we begin walking down this path until we reach the end to see the Angel of Hope. There we either place a flower in her arms, around the base of the statue, or on the brick or plague donated in honor of our loved ones. We do a combination of placing a flower with the angel and then placing a flower on top of the wall which contains the plague for our angel, my sister, Pamela. Then we take our places next to those that walked before us, and we silently touch candles together to light a flame as a final song is played in honor of the children. They have a closing prayer, and everyone extinguishes their candles and turns to walk away.
We were late last night and were not there when my sister’s name was called. Even though it was raining and bitter cold, we knew my dad would be there, even though my mom had already indicated that she was not going due to the weather conditions. We knew that my dad would be there, and we tried to get there in time to walk with him. We missed it by just a few minutes, but the important thing is that we did make it in time for him to be comforted by our presence. I walked up silently beside him as he held the lit candle, shielding it from the wind and rain with his hat. The look of sadness on his face is heartbreaking in and of itself. Without saying a word still, I shielded him, then, from the elements with my already extended umbrella. He glanced over at me, surprised at first to see me, then a look came over him that let me know he was glad I was there after all. He told me later that as long as he was able, he would be there each time that her name was called out no matter what.
This is a hard time of year for so many, our family included. That is why I have been trying so hard to be an encouragement to others with the words I have written on this website. We hurt. There is intense pain and grief that we are feeling at this time of year especially, and we miss our loved ones terribly. We allow the feelings. We honor my sister in this way each and every year. It is our way of honoring her life at Christmas time but also honoring her close to her birthday, which is December 13th. We should be celebrating her birthday this coming week with her here physically with us. We know that we carry her with us daily as she is always in our hearts. Love is eternal. We may be separated for a little while right now, but our love lives on.
Our love lives on.
In honor and memory of Pamela.
We love and miss you so much!