Angel of Hope Spreads Wings Over Saranac Lake

Our story is one of heartbreak that began six years ago and yet in the midst of it all, we do have Hope... something that I believe you need in order to be able to survive. Our lives were pretty much ordinary... a family of six with four great children. Then something terrible happened and our lives as we knew it, would change forever. Our youngest daughter, Lindsay, who had just turned 18 a few days before, came down with what we thought was flu-type symptoms. Being exposed to the flu a few days before, we naturally never suspected something much worse - bacterial meningitis. Taking her to the hospital the following afternoon, proved to be too late. She fought hard through the night but succumbed to the disease late the following morning, on Dec. 24, 2001. We were devastated and in shock, as were many in the community. The next few days we were on auto pilot as people heard the news and came to console us. The loss of a child was not new to us, as just two years before, our little niece, Chelsea Kinblom, had died at 7 years old from cancer. I will admit, although the pain of losing Chelsea was difficult for all of us, I had no clue as to the pain my sister, brother-in-law and nephew had to endure. The old adage walk in my shoes is real. At Lindsay's funeral, a dear friend of ours was given a book called The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans to give to us. In it this lady had written, "The Christmas Box is a story which is supposed to be helpful to parents who have lost a child. May this book provide some comfort to you. I would like to see a Angel of Hope statue here in our village dedicated to Lindsay and all who die too young and far too soon, for those who love them." Our good friend brought us the book the following day and much to my amazement, I had wanted this book. I had bought a book called The Letter for my son's girlfriend for Christmas, and realizing afterward that it was the last book in a trilogy, I had planned on giving it to her later after I had the other two: The Christmas Box and Timepiece. We didn't know anything about the story line. We were told they were wonderful though. It took me almost eight months before I was ready to read the book, but when I did, I knew the Angel of Hope would happen here, not only for Lindsay but for all who had lost someone they loved - a son, a daughter, a sister, a brother, a niece, a nephew, a grandchild or a friend - anyone who has died too soon for those who love them. One day in September 2002, we made a plan as a family to attend the town meeting. Getting ready for it, we turned on the radio and heard the song, "Calling All Angels" by Train. We were feeling like the Angels were with us even then. Presenting our story, as difficult as it was, we felt very supported. Afterward, a man on the board came up to us and said his nephew had died from meningitis a few years before. Another board member said he had lost a baby brother. He thought he had just the spot for the Angel. They said they would be happy to support us in finding a place for it. Leaving the meeting, we all felt very encouraged and celebrated with ice cream. We knew we were not alone on this journey. We were confident that this would happen. The following day, the news of the Angel Project was on the local radio and also in the newspaper. Calls came pouring in offering their help with needed materials and labor: The sand and gravel was donated by a family who lost a child; the concrete for the foundation, the labor and equipment for digging also. We were so touched. We set up a committee consisting of our family, other bereaved parents and siblings. We began receiving donations for the $12,500 bronze cast statue. Very little fund-raising was needed although we did have a pancake breakfast and one of our son's friends, Ashley Field, ran a marathon and raised money in memory of her brother. We thought that perhaps other people would want to donate materials and our next large hurdle was the pedestal and base for the Angel statue which would have cost us about $12000 and taken much longer to raise the money. I wrote a letter to the granite company and several months later was pleased to learn that a meeting was set up for us to speak with the quarry. Arriving that day, we had no idea what awaited us, although by now, would not be surprised. Again, a warm and friendly lady named Judy greeted us and after sharing our story, told us hers - the loss of two brothers at a young age. Our hearts felt so much compassion for her and we felt that we were supposed to be there again. Meeting with the owner, he told us he wanted to donate the base and pedestal and we were so grateful. Finding the perfect spot for the Angel was a very important step for all of us involved. We wanted it to be a quiet, reflective, contemplative place where people would be able to go and remember their loved one. One day while searching around, we came to a very familiar spot at the Adirondack Medical Center. The front lawn area was vacant with only a smoking shack. We stopped and proceeded to get out and look at the beautiful view of Lake Colby with the mountains in the background and knew once more that this was it. We gathered up the committee and set up a meeting with the CEO of the hospital. They were very gracious to us and allowed us to tell our story and why we wanted to have the Angel. Not only did they approve of us having it there on their grounds but they said they would "be honored". Having the pedestal and base for the statue, we now needed to have someone do the engraving for it. We decided on the inscription "Our Children - Remembered Always, Loved Forever" with a butterfly which is a special symbol for bereaved. One day after church, we were on our way home, when we spotted a man working on the Veteran's Memorial in the Memorial Park. I asked my husband if we could go speak to him, and so we stopped the car and walked over. We told him about our loss of our daughter and our Angel Project and asked if he knew anyone who could engrave our pedestal. And he said he'd be happy to do it for us. The saying "the right place, at the right time" comes to mind....with the guidance from ...perhaps... angels?? We wanted to have special plaques made of bronze to describe the ceremony on Dec. 6 every year at 7 pm. And one recognizing the Cold Spring Granite Co. for their donation. Thanks to Ron Keough for asking if the sister company, Cold Spring Granite Memorial Group, if they'd like to donate them to the Angel Project, they did not charge us. "A first" - he said! Securing the "perfect spot", we were able to place the order for our Angel September of 2004. And it was delivered a few days before our first Dec. 6 Ceremony. The countless people who attended that first ceremony was very touching and certainly we all felt like we weren't alone. In fact, little did we know just how many lives this kind of loss had touched in this area. Coming together, in what was a very frigid night, to hear our child/sibling/grandchild's name as we all held lit candles in the cold, we found Hope, which is actually a word that is sculpted into the Angel's wing. It is a word that holds us together and helps us to go on. It also gives people Hope who are in the hospital and people coming out. On the eve of the Dec 6th ceremony 2005, we received a phone call from a young man named Eric Stender. He was looking for a project to be a part of to earn his Eagle Scout Award and wanted to offer to help us make the Memorial walkway which he had heard about. He said his Dad was a stone mason and had experience doing this and would be working along with him. An answer to our last prayer! We accepted his offer and in the spring of 2006, began the groundbreaking work on the walkway. This was a big project. It had to be correctly graded for handicap accessibility. Once the main structure was built, and the fill put in, we notified the bereaved parents and families and had a full work day laying the bricks and then the memorial bricks and blocks which had been purchased in memory of their loved one. It was a very worthwhile day for all of us to see this come about. All present were touched including the volunteer Boy scouts and their leaders. One gift to all of us while there was while we were all on break, a beautiful Monarch flew onto one of the volunteer's heads! I went to get my camera, and it flew off and when I came back, landed again on his head! We know that was met to be for all of us there! There are businesses which we are so grateful to for the use of their equipment to use every year for the ceremony: Parties Unlimited and All Seasons Tent Rentals. AMC has always been gracious in allowing us to use their cafeteria for a reception after the ceremony and donating the refreshments. Our bell ringer, Samantha Martin, accompanied by her Dad, has been faithful in doing this every year regardless of the temperature! Many people have put many long hours and days into this and we'd like to thank them. Namely, Michael & Eric Stender, & Bill Madden, Jr. Our thanks also to John McEneany for all his help, and Ron King for donating his labor in installing the lighting which was donated by CED. Our last detail in this project was the landscaping. We had a rendering done by a landscaper and had an estimate given which we knew we would have to fundraise for since we didn't have the money. Later on, my husband met a couple, the DeLukes, who have a seasonal home nearby where he works. As it turned out, they own and operate a landscaping business and nursery in Schenectady. When I spoke to him about some flower bulbs and he found out about the Angel Project, he wanted to see it. We met him and his wife, JoAnne at the Angel the next day. Gary had a pad of paper and a pencil in his hand. He was speaking with my husband and JoAnne and I were sharing stories of our children who died. Meeting strangers who have had the same loss, feels like we know each other right away. JoAnne told me that their daughter had spent many days here at AMC getting her treatments and that she also fished and swam in Lake Colby and that this place was very special to her. Not really paying any attention to the men, we turned when they approached us. It was then that Gary said he wanted to donate all the landscaping in memory of his daughter, Kara. We were astounded although we should not have been, at this point. On a very cold Nov morning, we saw the most wonderful site when the area surrounding the Angel was transformed with beautiful shrubs and rose bushes. It truly overwhelmed me and tears streamed down my cheeks as I watched these men bringing it all together. What a beautiful place to go. One of the greatest fears of bereaved parents is that our children will be forgotten. This is a place where parents, siblings and grandparents, family members and friends can go to remember them. They will not ever be forgotten. No matter if they were here for only days, months or years. Our hearts hold them forever. This year on Dec. 6, with a light snow falling, we read over 260 names, each followed by the ringing of a bell. Sadly, our son, Joshua was added in 2005 when he died from depression. We have learned through great pain that life teaches us lessons. One is that life is precious and we never know when our time may be up. We need to treat each day as if it may be our last or someone we care about. Healing can happen by sharing our pain with others who understand. The Christmas Box Angel of Hope Remembrance Ceremony is held every year on Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. at the AMC grounds. To order a memorial brick or for more information, contact Deb at 891-0351 or email adkangelofhope@hotmail.com . Bereaved parents meet monthly to share
In April of 2003, The Adirondack Chapter of Bereaved Parents of the USA (BP/USA) was founded. It is part of a National organization which supports parents, siblings and grandparents who have lost a child, regardless of age. The chapter meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Presbyterian Church Hall, 57 Church Street in Saranac Lake. Everyone is welcome. For more information, call Deb or Doug Jerdo at 891-0351. The Jan. meeting will be held on Jan 15th due to New Years. Amonthly newsletter which is free of charge is available by emailing adkangelofhope@hotmail.com .

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