Parents spoke of their children who barely lived, but will never be forgotten, during a ceremony at Hinsdale United Methodist Church Wednesday evening.
About 180 people filled the church for Adventist Hinsdale Hospital’s 25th annual Still Missed Memorial Service.
Litsa Tsarouhis, of Burr Ridge, who lost her twins, Maria and Chris, 14 years ago, told parents, “My prayer for those of you who only recently experienced this loss and are just beginning the healing journey is that you will take care of yourselves emotionally and physically in order … to continue to serve the purpose for which you are here.”
In the short time their children were with them, they brought gifts from heaven, Tsarouhis said.
“Because of them, we bring more compassion to the world, a strong sense of the value of life and a perspective to what is most important,” Tsarouhis said.
Before she lost her twins, Tsarouhis said she was “really clueless to the pain of other people.” But since that loss, she is more compassionate and a much stronger person, she said.
“Tonight, my prayer … and my hope is that all of us will find comfort in the blessings we have received from our precious children and in the knowledge that one day we will be holding them in our arms again.”
Mark Schaefer, of Elmhurst, said the gifts he and his wife received after their daughter Joy Angel was stillborn in 2005 are their two adopted sons, Ryan and Brandon.
“We didn’t want to try again after that, so we chose adoption,” Schaefer said.
Marcie Calandra, who lost a son 27 years ago, said fathers, too, need support and comfort.
Calandra had an 18-month-old girl when her son was stillborn, so she had plenty of sympathetic friends in her circle to comfort her. But she did not realize her husband’s grief until five months later, when he started sobbing during a church service on Mother’s Day.
“I realized then that no one had given him the attention he needed,” said Calandra, who lives in Hinsdale. “That broke my heart again.”
Jane Lombard and Mike Ryce attended the service in honor of their daughter McKenzie, who was born in Hinsdale Hospital in July 2011 and died when she was 17 days old.
“It was hard to be around people at first,” she said. But the people in the Still Missed program helped Lombard get through that tragedy.
“Even when I didn’t call them back, they still called me,” Lombard said. She attended the parent support meetings and the Still Missed Memorial Service every year since her daughter’s death.
“The consistency of being around the same people every year” helps, Lombard said. “They are grieving for the same reasons. It’s a bond.”
Ryce was attending his first Still Missed service and said it gave him “the sense of not forgetting the importance of her birth.”
Several parents and family members expressed that sentiment.
As part of the ceremony, the name of each baby who died is read aloud, as a family member pins a white felt dove with the name of the child written on it to a large banner.
“That’s my favorite part,” said Dawn Rubio, whose son Jack died in 2003 when he was six days old. “We are never going to hear his name when he graduates or gets an award. But when I come here, they say his name and that’s the only time I am going to hear his name said aloud in public.”