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Locals gather to hold infant memorial ceremony

Above: Those in attendance at the Community Memorial Service wrote messages and memorials on balloons in memory of the children they were there to remember. They released the balloons and messages into the sunset sky after the memorial service had concluded. Inset: Certified Grief Counselor Norma Roark speaks on learning to cope with grief. Roark, along with Rose Edda Fore and Cindy Roberts, facilitates Grief Share meetings at First Baptist Church on Tuesday evenings. Grief Share is a support group for those who have experienced loss of a loved one. Those who wish to find out more about Grief Share can call First Baptist Church at 727 – 9711. Photos by Tia Thomas

By Tamas Mondovics

Each year, candlelight vigils, walks, and other memorial ceremonies mark October as the annual Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
Local residents from Johnson County and Mountain City joined communities and organizations across the country, and came together last week at Sunset Memorial Park in Mountain City to show support for and to take part in a day of remembrance for pregnancy loss and infant death, including miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS or the death of a newborn.
Since 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss, many families know the grief of this kind of loss. It’s often not spoken about, and yet, those who mourn often need support and understanding. The experience is painful and sometimes overwhelming.
The movement began on October 25, 1988, when President Ronald Reagan designated October as The Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness.
In 2002, the October 15 Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day Campaign began as an American movement. Robyn Bear, Lisa Brown, and Tammy Novak petitioned the federal government as well as the governors of each of the 50 states resulting in 20 signing proclamations recognizing October 15, 2002, as the first observance of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day (PAILRD).
Today, all 50 states yearly proclaim the day with eight states enacting permanent proclamations. These states are Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, Rhode Island, and South Dakota.
Locally this year’s ceremony drew a small crowd who took part in the somber ceremony that included Mountain City residents Anita Smith and David Holloway, who offered their talents and played appropriate music before and after the memorial observance. Smith opened the event in prayer, followed by participation from Norma Roark and Molly Darocha.
“I read the children’s names during our “Heaven’s Roll Call,” said Diane Darocha, adding, we then went outside to release the balloons we decorated, which was cared for by Jana Jones.”
The ceremony hit Diane a bit too close to home since losing her granddaughter, Lucy Jezel, at 21 weeks.
“My daughter-in-law, Molly, found out that October 15 was a National Remembrance Day, so we made sure we the ceremony is held each year,” Diane said. “Usually, we have glow sticks that stay lit all night as a beacon of the gazebo. It’ll happen next year again.”
Imogene Dotson closed the ceremony with prayer.
It is noteworthy that other countries around the world also observe the day on October 15. For example, Canadian provinces and territories have officially proclaimed the awareness day. And in recent years, the United Kingdom, Western Australia, New South Wales, and Italy have joined the movement.
“Still,” Diane said, “many don’t know that they can grieve. Some can be quick to dismiss it as a ‘nonevent’. But a mother’s soul knows. A family knows. A father knows. You are on a path
of joy and suddenly get yanked off and don’t know what to do. We hope our service brings healing to others. We do this ‘for the little ones we can only hold
in our hearts’; with the
motto: “Validate. Remember. Honor. Heal.”