CURE Childhood Cancer Annual Bereavement Weekend is a powerful and inspirational weekend for many people. We are so happy that we are able to share this weekend with those parents who we hold so dear to our hearts. Below, Meri Long shares her experience with CURE’s Annual Bereavement Weekend, and how it touches the lives of so many.
Having joined CURE’s staff in September 2008, this 2009 Annual Bereavement Weekend was my first, and what a powerful, moving experience it was for me. When I told friends and family I was working the weekend of January 24th and 25th, they asked what I was doing. I explained I was helping to put on a weekend for parents who had lost children to cancer. Understandably, everyone had similar responses: “Wow that’s awful,” and, “That must be so depressing.” Not having been to a Bereavement Weekend before, I didn’t know what to expect.
What I found was that there was more love and hope in the room with the parents in attendance than I had ever witnessed. These parents were truly grateful to have a setting in which to share memories of their precious children with other people who understood their grief. Sherry and Dirk Tucker, a remarkable couple from Orlando, Florida who lost their son Zach in 2007, shared their story and experiences with the group on Saturday. They were able to truly connect with the other parents and shared ways in which they have been able to move through their grief journey. The Tuckers inspired
me with their belief that their purpose in life now is to help others work through their grief and find meaning in life after the loss of a child.
On Sunday, the second day of the workshop, Brenda Tuminello spoke candidly about her life in the decade after losing her only daughter, Stacey. She shared her story of going down a treacherous path and ultimately finding spirituality as her redemption. These stories and many others were shared among the attendees in small group discussions and throughout the weekend.
One of the most special aspects of the weekend was the candlelight ceremony, which included a slideshow of the children we remembered and honored. As a child’s name was called, his or her parent(s) lit a candle that had been specially decorated in remembrance of the child, while pictures of the child were projected on a large screen for all to see. The ceremony was moving and awe inspiring, much like the rest of the weekend.
The strength and resilience of the parents I met made a deep and lasting impression on me. They truly are heroes. The fact that they persevere and find meaning, hope and joy in life is inspirational.
Many parents find joy and purpose in helping other families who have lost children to cancer. Others work passionately on the efforts to find a cure for childhood cancer so that other parents will not have to endure what they do. They all seem to find comfort and solace in their immediate family and friends and in honoring and remembering their child. It was a privilege to be able to share in that remembrance with them.
In the evaluations of the weekend, many expressed their heartfelt gratitude for being able to share memories of their child in such an accepting and compassionate environment. Parents also shared that Bereavement Weekend is a time that they look forward to each year. We hope to provide the support for these courageous parents for many years to come and to broaden our support in any way we can.
To receive information about Bereavement Weekend 2010, contact Meri Long at firstname.lastname@example.org .