10th Annual Day of Remembrance

Holli Holleman of Tyler still misses the silly laughter and playful spirit of her son, Alex.The boy died in a 1996 car accident that spared the lives of Ms. Holleman, her husband and oldest son, Nick, now 23 and a United States Marine.

Alex was 6 when he died and though many years have passed, his mother still longs to wrap her arms around the little guy and squeeze, hard.

She says her Christian faith pulled her through the tough times.

“His memory is always with me,” she said. “He loved bears and because of that, I have a house full of bears. When I first visited this park and saw the teddy bears, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh — this reminds me of Alex.’”

Ms. Holleman was among hundreds of people who gathered Saturday in Tyler at The Children’s Park for a day of remembrance and reflection.

The 10th Annual Walk in the Park and memorial ceremony, which included a butterfly release, was intended to acknowledge the loss a child and support those who grieve for them.

Alex has a special tree planted in his honor at the location.

“It’s really important for me to know that he’s not forgotten,” Ms. Holleman said. “This is my sixth year to participate in this event, and I’ll be here again next year.”

Children’s Park President Jennifer Carson said the occasion provides a safe, nurturing place for families to gather, grieve and regroup.

“There are very few places in our society where we are given permission and even encouraged to feel and express the depth of our pain that results from the loss of a child,” she said. “Our hope is that as people are given the space to grieve, they will be able to connect with their feelings and move further along in their healing journey.”

Ms. Carson was in the center of efforts 10 years ago to build the children’s park, which has become a popular destination for both quiet reflection and active play.

On Saturday, it was again brimming with visitors.

The event typically draws between 60 to 70 registrations, but this year’s roll call was far higher, April Chesley, also with the Children’s Park, said.

“We have at least 120,” she said. “In terms of families, the count is about 400.”
The increase in participation was a bitter sweet surprise, the women said.Future gatherings could become even larger.The Children Are a Gift Foundation, which helps oversee the park, plan to expand the park in the coming months, a project estimated at $635,250 and more than half-way funded.Tyler city leaders agreed last week to give $25,400 to help bring the project to fruition.At Saturday’s roll call, families had the opportunity to place an angel on a special tree in memory of their loved ones.Jody Weaver, of Tyler, a speaker at the event, has participated in the walk since the beginning.She helped form Glory Babies, an organization that supports parents hurting from the loss of an infant and or complications of infertility.

“I have six (children) in heaven,” she said, recalling tiny lives lost before birth. “The last one was 13 years ago so it’s been a while … we want to help other grieving parents to cope with their pain and regain hope.”

Today, Ms. Weaver is a proud mother of one daughter, JoAnna, 10.

Her children honored Saturday included Erin Bailey, Jordan James, Jayme Lee, Rebekah Grace, Isaac Thomas and Jacob Ray.

“For me, hearing my child’s name spoken aloud validates they were a person, a part of my life,” Ms. Weaver said. “You feel like you are not alone.”

Sponsors of Saturday’s event included Trinity Mother Frances Hospital System Children’s Miracle Network, Summer Johnston, city of Tyler, All American Party Rental, Ken Brumley, Carol King, Ancel Carson and numerous volunteers.

By JACQUE HILBURN-SIMMONS
jsimmons@tylerpaper.com