NEWINGTON - It wasnâ€™t so lonely for hundreds of people who gathered in memory of their loved ones Sunday at West Meadow Cemetery.
The Duksa Family Funeral Homesâ€™ Cherish Our Children Walk took place for the 19th year, bringing together parents, relatives and friends to remember children and babies who have died.
The yearly event is a unique opportunity for those who carry similar burdens to find peace and comfort in each other in a memorial setting.
â€śThis reminds me Iâ€™m not the only parent in the world who lost a child; itâ€™s a very lonely place to be,â€ť said Mollie Wentworth, a member of the original group of parents who took part in the very first event in 2000.
It was organized by Diana Duksa Kurz, a funeral director whose family owns Newington Memorial Funeral Home, Burritt Hill Funeral Home in New Britain and Newingtonâ€™s Fisette-Batzner Funeral Home.
â€śMy son David was 17 years old when he passed away unexpectedly,â€ť Wentworth said. â€śHe was at a friendâ€™s house and just collapsed. They never determined the cause of his death. Because of that, this walk gave me a purpose and put me in touch with other people who understood that. Thatâ€™s really what kept me moving forward.â€ť
She means people like fellow Newington residents John and Sherry Bengston, who lost their own son, Eric, in 1995 at age 20.
â€śEvery year, sadly, there are new people here who have lost children and weâ€™re here to support them as they begin their grief journey,â€ť Bengston explained. â€śWe have people from all over the state and sometimes other states, who come here.â€ť
Bagpiper Patrick Whelan led the procession of hundreds from Newington Memorial to the cemetery, where they gathered around the nondenominational Cherish Our Children angel statue for a special ceremony and musical program.
This yearâ€™s guest speaker was New Britain resident Jim Reed, whose 36-year-old daughter Karina ended her own life on March 4, 2018. He attended last yearâ€™s event just five months after losing her and was asked if he would share his story with the crowd this year.
â€śI was so impressed people came together in a collaborative group to share their heartbreak and misery and try to show love for one another, after what is in anyoneâ€™s life, an unspeakable and unforgettable event,â€ť Reed remembered of his first experience with Cherish Our Children.
He was honored to pass some insight gained into the grief journey with others - some mourning an adult child, like him, and others - a stillborn infant or a young child.
â€śIâ€™ve come to the conclusion I donâ€™t want to mourn her death endlessly, I want to celebrate her life indefinitely,â€ť Reed said of Karina. â€śI hope that you too, can find the strength to celebrate the lives of your loved ones.â€ť
Father and son John and Chris Foody were the first among their family to arrive to West Meadow to memorialize their grandson and son C.J. They stood in a patch of shade, holding white carnations and talking quietly, before close to a dozen others joined them.
â€śI lost my son C.J. five years ago to bone cancer,â€ť Chris said. â€śHe was 14 years old. He was a great little boy. He was my best friend.â€ť
Perhaps the most moving part of the event is the release of white doves into the air. They fly in all directions high above the cemetery as gasps can be heard below. Some think of this tradition to symbolize the freeing of their childrenâ€™s souls, and others, the release of their own pain.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.