Candle lighting remembers children gone too soon
If you go
Who: The Compassionate Friends
What: Candle lighting service
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9.
Where: First Congregational United Church of Christ, 54 S. Jackson St., Janesville.
JANESVILLE The holidays are supposed to be a joyous time.
But for those who have lost a child, it's not always that way.
"It's painful. It's difficult," said Carole Kies, who has lost two sons—Ian Kies and Daniel Kies—in the last 3.5 years.
After attending The Compassionate Friends' annual candle lighting service in Madison last year, Kies wanted the 2012 service that takes place in communities around the world to also be offered in Janesville.
"I went with a friend to Madison at St. Peter's Catholic Church. It was a lovely setting but a one-hour drive one way," she said.
"I thought if I would appreciate this, I'm sure there are other people who would, too," she said.
Kies discussed the service possibility with her pastor, the Rev. Wes Bixby, at First Congregational United Church of Christ.
"I was glad she came to me," he said. "We try to support any new idea that comes from a member of the church and try to be open to that."
Through his ministry, Bixby knows there's much pressure to be happy and put on a happy face at this time of year.
"It's important for the church to provide some space for those not feeling up to celebrating Christmas," he said.
Held annually on the second Sunday in December, The Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting unites family and friends around the globe as they light candles to honor and remember children who have died at any age from any cause, the group's website said.
Bixby also explained what members of the public could expect when they attend Sunday's service at the church.
"We're trying to create that safe place where people can be honest about all the emotions they carry with them," he said. "We'll offer a few readings we think are appropriate for allowing that kind of space."
Most importantly, those who attend are invited to bring pictures of their child who have died. At the end of the service, they will be invited to come forward speak the name of their loved one and light a candle "knowing that light still burns brightly in their heart and that we don't forget," Bixby said.
All are invited to the special service, Bixby said.
"We don't want people of other faiths or understandings to feel excluded," he said. "Grief is one of those things that brings us together in some amazingly complex ways."
The program also will include a quiet musical interlude as people arrive, some poetry readings Kies has chosen, some music ministry and the candle lighting ceremony.
"The purpose is to enjoy an atmosphere of unity with other bereaved families," Kies said.
"For me, it's a time when I can speak my sons' names and remember them with people who know what it's like to lose a child. There's a lot of strength in that," she said.
Kies said she hopes people will gain a greater compassion for others by attending the service. Bixby agrees.
"This is just one way to provide some healing," he said.