NEWINGTON - For the last 11 years, Donna Jenner has been walking around with two bricks in her pockets. One is for her daughter, Jessica, and the other, her son, Anthony.
They aren’t literal bricks, but instead symbolize the heaviness on her heart after losing her two children in a car crash in 2007.
Jenner shared this on Sunday with over 150 others mourning their children at West Meadow Cemetery. The group walked there together from Newington Memorial Funeral Home in the Duksa family’s 18th annual Cherish Our Children Walk. They were led by bagpiper Patrick Whelan.
“You eventually get used to the weight,” Jenner told the crowd, who gathered around the Cherish our Children angel statue, built and maintained by the Duksa family and volunteers.
“You don’t want to let go of it because it’s all you have left of your child. So you continue carrying it around.”
The program included musical performances by Steve Mitchell and Susan Carroll, who sang and played a song called “Who You’d Be Today.”
After that, Funeral Director Diana Duksa-Kurz read the names of children who have died as their families carried to the statue white carnations attached to personal messages for their loved and lost ones.
“May our angel here and her beautiful surroundings help to heal your broken heart,” she told the crowd.
The purpose of the annual event is to bring comfort and peace to families going through an unfathomable loss, Kurz explained.
“It’s really so that they can be surrounded by others who understand their pain and can walk that path with them,” she added.
The Duksa family owns and operates the Newington Memorial Funeral Home, the Burritt Hill Funeral Home in New Britain, and the Fisette-Batzner Funeral Home in Newington.
Some of those who attended Sunday come every year, traveling from all across the state and beyond. Others are newcomers who recently lost a child or just heard about the event.
On a table set up at the cemetery were fliers with information about the Hearts of Hope and Hands of Hope support groups, for mothers and fathers who have lost children.
Sandra Crespo and her family were at the tail end of the procession, walking along Route 175, East Cedar Street, aided by Newington police.
“It’s very pretty what they do; I enjoy it,” she said.
Crespo was remembering her still-born baby, Lisa Marie, whom she lost 21 years ago.
She joined others at the memorial who lost their babies, along with families mourning older children, grandchildren, friends, sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews.
“People ask, ‘Does it ever get easier?’ ” Jenner said. “The answer is no, it doesn’t.”
A common remark made by others, she added, is, “How can you be so strong?”
“I’m standing here today with some of the strongest people I know,” Jenner continued. “When someone asks you where you get your strength from, I urge you to tell them this, a quote from Bob Marley: ‘You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.’ ”
The program concluded the same way it does every year, with the release of white doves. As they flew from their cage, people stood and gazed up, some with cameras in the air, watching the birds soar into the sky. A few lingered above for several minutes, flying in a circle before spreading out in different directions.
This brought tears to many eyes, as people imagined their children, released from this world in much the same way.
Another memorial service is planned at the statue for Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. The annual Christmas Box Angel Candle Lighting Ceremony is held every year in rain, snow or extreme cold, Duksa assured those who attended the walk.
The free program includes music and candle lighting for children loved and lost.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.