Organization hosts candle lighting service to remember lost children

Organization hosts candle lighting service to remember lost children

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - One organization is holding candle lighting services this weekend aimed at remembering lost loved ones.

Compassionate Friends is an international organization created for parents who have lost a child.

And on the second Sunday of every December, they hold a candle lighting service around the world.

The hope is that for 24 straight hours, candles stay lit in every time zone to remember children who have died.

"It's by the grace of God that I'm here today because there's no pain like losing a child. Your hopes and dreams are gone with them," says Margie Newman of Tyler.

Margie's 21 year-old son Jeremy was coming home from dinner with friends on January 10, 2002, when he died in a head-on car collision. Margie says her life changed drastically, and she went into a horrible depression.

"I went out to the mail one day, the day that I was planning to take my life, and there was a brochure in there from Compassionate Friends. I picked up the phone, and I made a phone call, and the woman that I talked to, I heard her laugh. That was my first glimmer of hope," she says.

Compassionate Friends has several local East Texas chapters for parents like Margie and Merri Walsh of Whitehouse.

"He was always a straight-A student, a hard worker. Just a good kid," Merri says.

Merri's oldest son, Chris O'Leary, studied mechanical engineering at Texas A&M University. He died three years ago when he was hit by a drunk driver.

"I had three children. That's the biggest thing, you just feel like you've just lost a piece," she says.

And when she found the monthly Tyler Compassionate Friends meetings, Merri says she found a group that knows exactly what she's going through.

"Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry, sometimes you sit there and you don't say anything. Sometimes all you want to do is just talk, talk, talk about them, because anyone else, your friends and family, it's uncomfortable," she says.

The organization celebrates their children formally twice a year, with a butterfly release in the spring, and with a candle lighting celebration every year at Christmas.

"I think as a parent that has lost a child, the worst thing is just for people to forget them. And so it's just a nice memory," Merri says.

"The candle lighting that we do every year in memory of our kids is a super special time. We light a candle in memory of our children. We say their name and their pictures are up on a slideshow and -- we can't go out and buy gifts for our children. We can't spend the holidays with them and share a meal with them and celebrate this joyous time. But we can light a candle in their memory so their memory will forever stay alive," Margie says.

There are at least two local Compassionate Friends candle lighting services going on this weekend.

There's a service at Crossroads Community Church in Tyler (13730 Hwy. 155 South) at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.

And at the same time, there's a service at Alpine Church of Christ in Longview, located at 601 East Loop 281 in Longview.