On Tue., Nov. 9, several gathered in Heartland Mall, for the Hanging of the Angels. Sponsored and organized by the Bereaved Parents Support Group, the annual event is open to all who have lost loved ones, and is an opportunity to honor and memorialize them. 

The event organizer, LaFreda Kilburn, said, "When we started the Hanging of the Angels, we had one tree and 200 angels. We now have two trees and over 400 angels." The "angels" are represented by individual ornaments, many containing photographs of loved ones and others with only names. "The Bereaved Parents Support Group furnishes the trees and angels, at no cost. Anyone who would like to participate can call and we will create one for them."

The trees remain on display, at the entrance to J.C. Penney inside Heartland Mall, until the day after Christmas. Kilburn said, "We will have a Candlelight Memorial Service, on Dec. 8, with poems, songs, lighting of candles, and all of the names will be read." The public is invited to join the celebrations of the lives of those remembered. "Our Candlelight ceremony is in conjunction with the Compassionate Friends Annual Wave of Light and will be held from 7 to 8 p.m." 

The Annual Wave of Light is a world-wide event, beginning with the lighting of candles in New Zealand, and proceeding around the globe in one hour increments. Over 800 groups participated, in 2012, and more are expected this, its 17th year. Candles will be provided by the Bereaved Parents Support Group.

"Although originally for the Bereaved Parents, we have expanded the event to include all who have lost loved ones, because of the lack of grief support groups in the area," Kilburn said, "For those who are not comfortable with joining the public ceremony, we still provide angels for the trees, so that the families can stop by on their own time."

The local Bereaved Parents Support Group was organized in 1988 and, in 1992, was absorbed into the Community Counseling Center of Howard Payne University. With the dissolution of the Counseling Center, the group was left without a home and leadership. In 1994, LaFreda Kilburn took up the torch and continues to lead the group today. She organized the first Angel Memorial trees two years later.

Kilburn lost her only son, Scotty Purcell, at age 16. Scotty lost his life, when his pickup was struck by a train, 20 years ago in Bangs. "My son, Scotty, would expect no less of me, so that is what I give to honor his life and legacy. Now, 20 years later, Scotty lives on in all the work I do to help others. Love never dies. It lives forever," Kilburn wrote in a blog post.

The group now meets the 3rd Tues. of each month, at the Abundant Life Church, located at 1120 Belle Plain, with the intention of "helping grieving souls find a positive way to deal with their grief and simply offer support and friendship to the grieving." 

For more information on the Bereaved Parents group, contact LaFreda Kilburn at (325) 998-1567 or send email to mylovingtouch@verizon.net. For additional information on the Compassionate Friends candle lighting, www.compassionatefriends.org.