October Angel of Hope Vigil Provides Extra Light for Parents Grieving Loss of Child

Normally held in December for Worldwide Candle Lighting Day, the Duluth organization wanted to have an additional vigil this year after postponing 2020's.

DULUTH, Minn.- Not every event which restarts after the pandemic is a joyous festival or celebration. Yet, somber as it was, an Angel of Hope Vigil Sunday was one welcomed by parents grieving the loss of a child.

“I think a lot of people really missed that,” said Debbie Davis, one of the founders. “I think a lot of people look forward to seeing people, sharing stories.”

Dozens of parents and grandparents in Duluth who have lost children to illness, accidents, or other causes gathered at the angel of hope memorial in Leif Erikson Park for a candlelight vigil to remember their children.

“When you have a child die, you feel like the only person in the world,” Davis said. “One of the founders of the event. “And as you start to kind of reach out to people, come to vigils like this, you realize you’re not the only one.”

During miscarriage or infancy to adulthood, their children died at a variety of ages. “Not only are we grieving the loss of our child, but we’re also grieving all the memories that we’ll never get to make with these children,” said Davis.

A tradition since the statue was erected in 2012, new parents, unfortunately, join every year. “It’s still so painful, that it doesn’t matter how old they were,” said Amanda Eastvold.

Amanda and her husband Mark lost their son Everett last June. He drowned in Lake Superior, at the age of six. “He was wild and crazy and loved to sing and swim,” said Mark.

“He was an excellent bike rider, so he kind of skipped the training wheels and just went all in,” Amanda said. “Yeah, just a very exciting young man.”

This vigil is normally held in December for Worldwide Candle Lighting Day, but the Duluth organization wanted to have an additional event this year after postponing 2020’s.

And with October being Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, organizers felt it was an appropriate time.

“It’s nice to be in the seasons that constantly change, different seasons, different feelings come up and knowing that, again you’re not alone in this season and that the grief is continuous,” said Mr. Eastvold.

Amid some live music, parents stated the name of their child with a pastor repeating the phrase: “we remember them.”

“So often people feel like they shouldn’t bring up someone’s name that you now they, for someone that died and you grieve and it’s like, we’re thinking about them all the time so it helps us to, we just talk about them,” Mark said.

“But saying his name is soothing,” said Mrs. Eastvold.

Grieving parents said that’s important, as they sometimes feel the rest of the world expects them to get over an absence present their whole life. “So we’re always getting reminders all the time that this is our new normal, this is the way we have to live life,” Davis said.

Surrounding the Angel of Hope statue are bricks etched with the names of children lost and messages from their loved ones.

“We were told the other day we only have spots for 400 new pavers,” said Davis. “Which doesn’t sound like a lot, but we have 14-15 of them going in or just went in before October came, so it adds up.”

This year the group is selling t-shirts and candles with proceeds going to the Compassionate Care Fund, which will provide families money to order a brick in memory of their loved one, for $85.

And while these parents will never get their child back, gatherings like these can provide a bit of light on the long journey.

“I feel like we think we’re the only ones, we’re the only ones like it’s such a big loss,” Amanda said. “So it’s good to see and be surrounded by other people who understand the loss of a child.”

120 Angel of Hope statues stand across the country, built after the book “The Christmas Box” was published in 1993 — in which a woman mourned the loss of her child at the base of an angel statue.

The group in Duluth will hold another event on December 6th, joining the rest of the world at each of those statues in remembrance.

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