Healing Hearts Christmas tree

Cindy Lehman (left) and Carol Keezer of Healing Hearts hang Christmas ornaments on a tree at Pontiac Park in Defiance. Healing Hearts, a support group for families that have lost a child, is hosting its annual tree decorating service Dec. 8 at its memorial garden at Pontiac Park.

Healing Hearts, a non-denominational support group for families who have lost a child, will hold a special tree-decorating ceremony Dec. 8 at 1 p.m. at the organization’s memorial garden at Pontiac Park in Defiance.

David Jimenez of St. John Catholic Church in Defiance will give the blessing, with Rick Small serving as emcee. Music will be provided by Tina Hiler.

Following the tree decorating by parents, the 30-minute ceremony will conclude with the singing of “Silent Night.”

“We invite the public to join us in remembering our children. In doing so, in sharing with each other, we ease our pain,” said Carol Keezer of Healing Hearts, which is comprised of residents in Defiance, Paulding, Henry, Putnam, Fulton and Williams counties.

Area residents who are not members of Healing Hearts are nevertheless invited to bring their own ornament and decorate the tree in memory of their loved ones.

Small will read the names of each loved one lost during the ceremony.

“The death of a child is a kind of grief like no other loss,” said Keezer. “We will never ‘get over it,’ but with the help of other parents sharing the same pain, we can learn to work through the painful journey of our loss.”

Later that day, candles of remembrance will shine around the world at 7 p.m., including inside the homes of Healing Hearts members. The global candle lighting remembers children and young adults who have died, regardless of age, religion or ethnic origin.

“Our members will light candles in their homes for one hour from 7-8 p.m. to remember children who have died at any age from any cause,” said Linda Tuohy of Healing Hearts.

The candle lighting is part of the 23rd annual ceremony observed worldwide by The Compassionate Friends (TCF), the world’s largest self-help bereavement organization.

There are more than 600 chapters in the U.S., including Sylvania, Van Wert, Ada and Findlay in northwest Ohio.

Tuohy said the candle lighting, which includes countless bereavement organizations such as Healing Hearts, will create a virtual 24-hour wave of light as it moves from time zone to time zone.

“After your child dies, parents fear that in time their child will be forgotten, but this allows us all to join together in unity to remember and honor their memories,” said Tuohy.

It is expected that nearly 150,000 infants, children, teens and young adults will die this year in the United States.

In addition, more than 25,000 families will face a stillbirth and more than 900,000, an early pregnancy loss.

“We are parents who need to talk to other parents that have experienced the same kind of loss,” Keezer said. “We serve as a witness to the fact that we can make it beyond the intense grief as we come together and support each other in our lifelong journey.”

For more information, contact Al or Linda Tuohy at 419-782-4488.

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