It's probably safe to assume that this year's Angel of Hope ceremony was more poignant than usual for members of the greater Lake Placid community.
The Angel of Hope statue was set up in front of Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake for people whose children have died. Tuesday happened to be the date of an annual gathering of family members, especially parents, whose loved ones have left this world too soon. It's a chance for people still feeling the loss of a son or daughter, no matter how long ago, to at least see that they're not alone. At best, that sense of solidarity can grow into feelings of peace and understanding and even hope - hence the name of the statue.
Last week was especially painful due to four sudden and heartbreaking deaths, and resolution reached on a fifth. To recap:
-Twenty-five-year-old Tommy Fleming died after a 15-year battle with multiple sclerosis.
-Searchers found the body of Russ Beede on Nov. 30 in the woods near Mount Jo. He had gone out hunting four days earlier, but authorities ruled the cause of death to be suicide.
-Also on Nov. 30, a car crash killed 7-year-old Henry Caito and his grandmother, Theresa Caito, both of Jay. This is a horrible situation for everyone involved, but especially for Greg Caito, who lost a son and his mother at once. We've always liked Greg and think of him often these days.
-Although Jason Larabie was killed in August, on Nov. 30 Dustin Hill pleaded guilty to murdering him in Plattsburgh, where they both lived. Both men were former residents of Tupper Lake and have family there.
Families of these people must be suffering at this time. But more than just relatives have shed tears. The deceased were well known, and people miss them deeply; we say this from our own experience with some of these people and from what we've heard from others. We hope it will ease the families' burdens to know that the community is in this with them.
A few years ago, Deb and Doug Jerdo of Saranac Lake were thrown into grief when their daughter and son died in close succession. They so appreciated the power of community support that they subsequently worked with others to set up the Angel of Hope statue in front of the hospital and begin the annual ceremony. Later, they worked to bring the annual Out of the Darkness suicide-awareness walk to Lake Placid, saying it can be unhealthy to keep this sensitive issue bottled up.
There are reasons to hope, as per the name of the statue:
-to hope these families know how many of their neighbors have gone through the same kind of thing
-to hope some of these neighbors are open to listening to and helping ease someone's grief
-to hope that the next time a parent loses a child, there will be plenty of people available to console them as well
-to hope that the person now in mourning will eventually find acceptance, peace and hard-earned wisdom.