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Support group hosts event

December 04, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Twelve years ago, Cheryl Cross lost her daughter, Rebecca Lynne, when her 41/2-month pregnancy came to an abrupt end.

"I got to hold her and say goodbye - that was important for me," Cross said Tuesday night as she joined nearly 100 others at the 18th annual Labor of Love candlelight memorial service at Trinity Lutheran Church in Hagerstown.

After she lost her daughter, Cross got connected with the Labor of Love support group formed nearly 20 years ago at Washington County Hospital for those who have experienced the loss of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death.

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Every year, Cross comes to the candlelight service where she said she feels a special bond with all those who have had similar tragedies in their lives.

"It's a day I put aside for that special person," she said. "I never realized just how many people lose children until I started to come."

Already the mother of two when she lost Rebecca, Cross said the support group gave her the courage to have another child after that experience in 1990.

"After a while, I stopped going to the monthly meetings but every year on what would have been Rebecca's due date, we release a balloon in her memory," Cross said.

Several other parents rose to tell the stories of their loss and how Labor of Love helped them cope with the pain, the anger and the upheavals in their lives.

The support group was formed in the early 1980s by former Washington County Hospital Chaplain Don Evason and Wendy Hite, who lost a baby to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Current chaplain Barbara Steigerwalt read a poem and shared her story of the loss of her great granddaughter in October.

As the candles were lighted, each person who had lost a child was encouraged to say the name of that child aloud so all could hear and remember.

Parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters spoke. A hush fell over the room as one woman recited the names of four of her children who had died.

Many held pictures of their lost loved ones.

"I wish I had a picture of Rebecca but they didn't do that so much then," Cross said. Now pictures are taken and the parents are given the film so they can decide later if they want to have pictures or not, she said.

The Labor of Love support group is coordinated by Judy Conrad and meets the first Wednesday of each month at the hospital at 7 p.m.

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