Christmas may be the happiest time of the year for many people, but for parents who have lost children, it can be the most difficult.
For the past several years, the congregation of St. Christopher’s at the Crossroads Episcopal Church in Perry has held an interdenominational memorial service for parents who have known the heartache of having suffered the loss of a child.
The service was started by Tribby and Randy McQuaig after the loss of their own daughter, Sherry. Perry resident Susan Arzt has been attending for about five years, and this year she is one of the organizers of the event.
“I know all too well what the holidays are like when your child is not with you. As I light three candles each year, the memories that I hold for each of them enables me to accept the emptiness in my heart," said Arzt, who has had three of her four children die of illness and lost a granddaughter in a car accident at the age of 11.
Upon entering the church, each parent is given an angel ornament with their child’s name on it and then proceeds to the "Angel Tree" to place their angel there.
Along with music, scriptures are read that focus on loss and hope. As each child’s name is read, the parent comes forth to light a candle in memory of their child. A reception follows after the service, and all are welcome to share memories of their loved ones with each other.
Officiating at the service will be Father Joe Dunagan and Deacon Kathy Kelly Dunagan.
The service is for all parents who have lost a son or daughter, including miscarriages and the loss of adult children.
“What we want to do is to recognize that it is a hard, tough time of year,” said Father Joe Dunagan. “We also want to recognize that you have to mourn, be sad that they are not here but also thankful for the time that you had.”
Dunagan said the service is about providing a sense of community for a group of people who might feel lost during the holidays.
“These are people that can hug each other, not say a word but communicate to each other that they know how hard it is because they are going through it themselves.”
This year the service will be held at 5 p.m. Saturday at St. Christopher’s at the Crossroads Episcopal Church, 1207 Macon Road, Perry. Anyone who wishes for their child to be part of the memorial may contact Artz at 987-5630, so a personalized angel will be available at the service.