It takes a village to grieve a child

The local community’s Facebook story was extraordinarily touching. A car/truck accident had occurred at an intersection in 2004 in a nearby town. Anna Ringer, a 16-year-old girl, died in that accident. As often happens, a cross (in pink, Anna’s favorite color) was erected at the site, and friends and family left flowers, teddy bears, and other memorabilia to mark the spot where Anna died.

As the years passed, the cross faded from the weather, and the teddy bears and other items had either blown away or were covered over with mud or debris. It was a heartbreaking site.

Kimberly Wiser, who passes the site every day and recalls the accident, stopped a few weeks ago when she realized the cross was gone. At first, all she found were some teddy bears. But when her husband came to help, she found the cross lying face down in the grass. Together, they moved it back to its spot by the tree. She later posted about it, closing with, “If anyone knows this family, please let them know that although I didn’t know their daughter, my heart has grieved their loss and I think of them often.”

In days that post garnered nearly 1500 responses and 126 comments. Others volunteered to help. A friend mowed, cleared all the debris, and planted the cross deeply into the ground. Even more memorabilia were found while clearing. Kimberly says, “The worn out, faded cross and shabby teddy bears pay tribute to the years that have passed with beautiful authenticity but in conversation, we thought it would be wonderful to suggest that those who would like to, let’s honor Anna with some fresh remembrances. We’ve tried to secure everything so far and we’ve placed some stones around her cross. I am honored to be part of this amazing community!”

It takes a community to grieve a child.

The violent summer storms uprooted many trees at a local park that I frequent. Replanting happened a few weeks ago, and two of the new trees are in memory of babies who died in infancy. I stop at both trees whenever I’m there and say the babies’ names aloud: Killian who died earlier this month at less than four months old and Olivia who died in 2015 at two weeks.

Like Kimberly, I didn’t know these children or their families. But “remembering” them by saying their names means they won’t be forgotten.

It takes a village to grieve a child.

I recently told my friend Denise that I think of her and her sons every single day. She lost both her sons at an early age: Zane at 19 in 2011 and Catzby at 31 in 2019. What prompts me in their memory? A card depicting Zane’s Comet hangs on my bulletin board, and a note from Catzby’s funeral that says, “May his memory be for a blessing” rests on a nearby table.

It takes a village to grieve a child.

When the anniversary of the death of my own son Tim arrives each October 20, a few people still remember, even after 14 years. My sisters and my daughter (of course) call, send a card, or send flowers with a note. And a small handful of friends reach out each October as well, and that gesture is so appreciated.

Parents whose children have died aren’t asking for sympathy. We just want to hear their names spoken as reassurance that someone other than ourselves remembers and grieves with us for the very fact that our children are no longer among the living.

Yes, it takes a village to grieve a child.