Tonawanda News

September 25, 2013

Love lives forever

WNY Perinatal Bereavement Network opens memorial garden in NT cemetery

By Jill Keppeler jill.keppeler@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — In a sunny section of Acacia Park Cemetery, there stands a new granite memorial in the middle of a heart-shaped path. A trio of Bradford pear trees grows nearby, as do butterfly bushes and potted flowers, flanked by two stone benches.

“Wings of Love” is engraved on the front of the memorial. On the back are these words:

“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots; the other, wings.”

The Wings of Love Memorial Garden, which was recently dedicated at the cemetery, is the first of four planned memorial gardens created by the Western New York Perinatal Bereavement Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping parents and families who have lost a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy or early infant death. 

Christine Scott of Lancaster, executive director of the network, said the site will not only serve as a final resting place for a number of children, but a place for their families to commemorate their existence.

“It’s so important to remember them,” she said. “Parents really need the space to come to mourn their children, to sit and reflect and remember and grieve and cry and heal.

“Everybody grieves in their own way, but if we can give them some peace in their mind and hearts ... Everything we do in the network doesn’t take away their pain — but it gives them the chance to heal.”

Scott knows these things all too well. She was expecting her second son in 2000 when she became very ill, her kidneys failing five months into the pregnancy, and had to start undergoing dialysis. Several weeks later, during an ultrasound, she learned that her unborn son hadn’t made it. Jacob Wesley Scott was born still on May 27, 2000 — and his memory drives Scott to this day.

In September 2000, when Jacob’s due date would have been, she received a kidney from her mother, a life-saving operation of which she just marked the 13th anniversary.

“That’s why I do what I do,” Scott said. “Of course, if you asked me what I wanted to do when I was younger, working around death and dying would not have been it. I do it because I’m passionate about it.

“I really wanted to keep Jacob’s memory alive. I wanted to find a way to do it.”

In 2007, in memory of Jacob, the Scott family started the Wings of Love Memorial Fund, which aims to ease some of the some financial burden on already grieving parents faced with loss of an infant. Since September 2007, the program has provided more than $30,000 to families throughout the eight-county Western New York area. Through the fund, which is completely run on donations, parents can receive up to $3,500 for burial and other expenses.

However, they also felt a need for a site for parents to commemorate their child, to mourn and mark birthdays or milestones, and memorial gardens were planned at four sites throughout Western New York. The fund received a $40,000 grant from Ingram-Micro, and, after reading a newspaper article about the fund’s work, Keith Barber of Friendship, N.Y., donated plots of land at Acacia Park Cemetery to be used for the garden. Friends of Acacia Park, Wagner Monuments, Stone Art Memorial Co. and Elber Landscape Service also assisted with the site, and the garden was dedicated Sept. 10. (Other garden sites are in progress in Lancaster and planned in the City of Buffalo and the Southern Tier.)

Scott, now also executive director of the network, said that parents will be able to purchase bronze butterflies engraved with their child’s name to place at the site. There are also 28 plots for infants whose families are helped by the Wings of Love fund.

It’s important, she said, to remember children who were here so briefly, but will never be forgotten.

“Love doesn’t die,” she said. “It just doesn’t. Love lives forever.”

Sue Mis of North Tonawanda, treasurer of the network, became involved with the group after the loss of her son in 2008 during her pregnancy with twins.

“We never want to forget my son. We always want to celebrate some things just for him,” said Mis, who was at the dedication Sept. 10. “This program is just so healing for people. 

“And the garden is just another one of the services they’re providing for people who feel the want or need for a place to go ... to celebrate, to cry, to do whatever they feel like they need to do. It’s so beautiful and peaceful there.”

Mis lauded Scott for all the time and effort she puts into the program, and for making sure that people never have to go through a loss alone. 

“No situation is exactly the same ... but we all have something in common,” she said. “We just hope we can bring some comfort to people at whatever point they’re at.”

The network also sponsors a number of events to promote its mission. The first Walk to Remember just took place in Jamestown, and the 21st annual Walk to Remember — which draws 800 to 1,000 people — will take place Oct. 13 in Cheektowaga. On Oct. 15, Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day, memorials will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Acacia Park memorial and at the Oratory of the Sacred Heart in Portville. For more information, visit www.wnypbn.org.

FOR MORE INFORMATION • Call 626-6363 • Email christine@wnypbn.org • Visit www.wnypbn.org