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It’s the club nobody would choose to belong to. There is nothing more wrenching than for a parent to bury their child, and that includes grandparents, especially on Marco, but that is the bond that brought together dozens of people on Thursday, Dec. 6, to sit in the darkness at Marco Island Cemetery and remember their loved one, and by sharing their grief, have the chance to lessen it.

The evening marked the 19th annual Christmas Box Angel service at the cemetery, a tradition based on Richard Evans’ book “The Christmas Box,” in which a mother visits an angel to mourn the loss of her child. Marco’s angel statue was placed in the cemetery adjoining New Life Community Church and dedicated on December 6, 2000, and every year on that date, the service returns, with chairs grouped in front of the sculpture.

Sloan Wheeler, a sixth-grader with grown-up poise and presence, led off the ceremony, singing a capella and looking like an angel herself. After selections including “Mary, Did You Know?” “Amazing Grace,” and “Angels We Have Heard on High,” New Life Pastor Thomas McCully delivered an opening prayer, saying “it is contrary to nature for parents to bury their children,” and acknowledging that, not having gone through the experience himself, he could not fully comprehend the feelings of those who had.

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In contrast to the pastor’s suit, Roger K. Moll, Jr. delivered his message in jeans and bare feet. He told of signs that brought to mind the departed, telling the group sitting before him in darkness that “everyone, at one time, will receive a sign your loved one is still around.”

As Joe Whiting read a list of over 200 names of the children who had passed on and were mourned by their parents, those in the chairs lit candles and held them, until the darkness was lit up by a communal glow, with each small flame joining together. After the singing of “Silent Night,” each attendee brought forward the white flower each was given before the service, and placed them in the arms of the angel statue.

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For those who might have lost loved ones, support services are available. Nanette Moll of Coffee and Comfort, a group for grieving mothers located on Marco Island, can be reached at 239-394-7242, ext. 93. Compassionate Friends, for families grieving the loss of a child, lists Linda Wallace as a contact at 239-690-7801.

Parents of Murdered Children, for those grieving the loss of a child from violent crime, can be accessed through Project HELP at 239-262-7227. For parents grieving the loss of an infant, the National Share Office can be reached at 800-821-6819, or info@nationalshare.org.

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