Bereaved parents and family members of children who have died will gather Sunday for the annual “Wave of Light” candle lighting ceremony in remembrance of their loved ones.
As in years past, the gathering begins at 6:30 p.m. the second Sunday of December and is held in Heartland Mall, in the courtyard outside J.C. Penney’s. The actual lighting of the candles will begin at 7 p.m. Candles will be kept aflame for one hour.
“As candles are lit at 7 p.m. local time and continue to glow until 8 p.m., hundreds of thousands of persons remember children in a way that transcends all ethnic, cultural, religious and political boundaries,” said LaFreda Kilburn, whose son Scotty Purcell was killed in an automobile accident, and, who has headed the Bereaved Parents group since 1994.
“Beginning in New Zealand, as each set of candles burn out in one time zone, they are lit in another, until each time zone around the world glows, creating the virtual 24-hour wave of light,” Kilburn said.
According to Kilburn, the world-wide candle lighting is made up of hundreds of thousands of memorial services all over the world, in addition to private memorials families may hold in their own homes.
“It is undocumented but believed to be the largest mass candle lighting on the globe,” Kilburn said.
The Bereaved Parent Support Group, in conjunction with Compassionate Friends, organizes this area’s participation in a worldwide candle lighting to commemorate and honor children who have died, regardless of cause or age. Heartland Mall hosts the event, and offers the site for the Angel tree to stand throughout December.
This area’s Angel Memorial Tree was established in 1996. It is decorated with “angel ornaments” listing the names and birth and death dates of those remembered. Some ornaments also include pictures.
“It is a way for families to honor their loved ones,” Kilburn said. She said the the tree holds more than 300 ornaments, and the number climbs every year.
Kilburn said family members from as far as Austin make their way to the candle lighting.
“We are able to offer our families in the area who have suffered the death of a loved one the chance to be a part of something reverent and moving,” Kilburn said. “It is a blessed evening with large groups of families attending to spend just one evening in remembrance of their loved one during this difficult holiday season.”
This area’s Bereaved Parents Support Group was founded in 1992 by the community counseling center at Howard Payne University. Under the direction of Marilyn Jackson, and with help from local leaders, the group originated with a group of around 20 who had lost children to death.
Kilburn said the local support group is open to any parent, grandparent, sibling or grieving family member who has lost a loved one.
There is no charge to adding a memorial ornament to the tree, Kilburn said. For information about the support group or on how to add an ornament, contact Kilburn at 325-752-6025. The group meets monthly at Adams Street Community Center.