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Kelowna: Memorial to help parents grieve

Shelley Lanz and her son, Caleb, who passed away just over a year ago. - contributor
Shelley Lanz and her son, Caleb, who passed away just over a year ago.
— image credit: contributor

When nine-year-old Caleb passed away on Sept. 24 of last year, the future ended for his mother.

He had been sick with an incurable brain cancer for a year and a half and the slow process of losing him had taken an unbearable toll.

"Losing a child is losing your future," said Shelley Lanz. "When you have a baby, you have all these hopes and dreams of what the future will bring. And then it's gone. It's very hard to grasp."

At first, Lanz found everyone was there to help her through the grief; but as time passed, the rest of the world had to move on.

"I don't want to be this Debbie Downer in the world," she said. "So a mask goes on and I go to work and I'm this other person out in the world."

Dealing with Caleb's illness was not easy to begin with as he was diagnosed when he was just eight years old, too young to explain what terminal means let alone deal with it.

"I just sort of answered his questions as they came," said Lanz, noting it took some time before he even realized he had cancer.

The family talked to physicians in Europe, Mexico, New York—anyone and everyone they could reach to see if there was some way the cancerous tumour in his brain could be operated on—though they were told from the start it was inoperable and ultimately a death sentence.

"I told him he has a bump in his brain and he needs to see the doctors," Lanz explained.

As the disease progressed, Caleb would eventually come to understand what was happening on his own; but all the preparing him for his death, didn't help Lanz herself when he was gone.

Thankfully, a friend told her about The Compassionate Friends.

The local group is part of an international movement to help bereaved families come to terms with and cope with the loss of a child, and for this mother it has been a lifeline.

"I don't know that there's an end to grieving the loss of a child," she said. "I've gotten better at living, but I'll never go back to being that person I was."

One of the ways The Compassionate Friends helps parents deal with grief is through its annual candlelight vigil. Held on Dec. 9, it is an evening to mark the loss and provide families a place where they can be comfortable sharing in the grieving processes during the difficult holiday season.

The candlelight ceremony will be held on Sunday, Dec. 9 at 6:30 p.m. in First United Church Hall, 821 Bernard Avenue, and Compassionate Friends chapters around the world will light candles on the hour, spreading the flame around the world.

Those who attend are asked to bring a momento to commemorate the child's life being marked.

Information can be obtained from Linda and Glen Woods by contacting them at tcfkelowna@shaw.ca or by calling 250-807-2487.

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