Steena Hymes Staff Writer
November 26, 2013
When a child dies, there are no answers to give for understanding or words to say for resolution, but there is hope – an Angel of Hope. Kathy Reyes, Leigh Taylor and Robin Sheppard are all mothers who lost children and they are responsible for bringing the Angel of Hope to Lagrange in efforts to bring comfort and solidarity to those who have been touched by the loss of a child.
Reyes lost her triplets at birth in November of 1994. At Christmas, she went to the mall hoping to find something to make her happy. What she left with ignited her efforts to bring the Angel of Hope to LaGrange.
Reyes stumbled upon a book titled “The Christmas Box” written by Richard Paul Evans which tells the story of a woman grieving her young daughter and an angel monument that played a role in her healing.
“I felt like the book was meant for me – that God brought me to that book because it helped me get through a hard time of my life,” Reyes said.
Since the book has been published, it has sparked a movement of Angels of Hope being commissioned all throughout the country. There are now over 100 statues and LaGrange was the 65th city to receive the Angel of Hope thanks to Reyes, Taylor and Sheppard.
Taylor and Sheppard met Reyes when she spoke at a support group for parents who had lost a child. Reyes recounted her story of “The Christmas Box” and how she wanted to bring the Angel to LaGrange. In 2005, the three of them started a fundraising campaign and within a year they were able to purchase the $16,000 statue.
The Angel of Hope now stands on the West Georgia Medical Center campus. The monument is paved in bricks laid in memory of children who have passed, which are purchased by those affected. When commissioning an angel, there are rules that go along with it. One is that it is to honor children and another is that every Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. a candlelight service is held in memoriam. This will be the ninth year Lagrange has held the service.
“It’s for people with the same heart to come and grieve their child. Everybody there has the same heart – we all have the same sorrow.” Reyes said.
The angel isn’t just for the service, however. It’s for anyone who has been affected by the death of a child to come at anytime and find peace.
Taylor, who works at the hospital, said it isn’t uncommon for her to stop at the angel after work to remember her son who died one day after birth. She said she finds more peace and calm at the angel rather than going to the cemetery.
“I don’t go to the cemetery often; I just don’t like being there. The angel is truly what it’s for – its hope,” Taylor said.
Reyes, Taylor and Sheppard hope that through the angel, they can connect all parents alike and bring light and hope to a tragic situation.
“Nobody knows that sorrow. Nobody, unless you’ve been there, understands and that’s why it’s so comforting,” Reyes said. “Anyone who has lost a child would find comfort in this service.”
Taylor said those who come to the service are all in different stages in the grief process and she hopes they can look out to the faces and see that they can do this and say “at some point I will be OK too.”
“There has to be light – you have to be the light for somebody else and that helps you get through it,” Reyes added.
They also emphasized that this service isn’t just for the parents, but also any friends, siblings or community members that have been touched by the death of a child.
Reyes said this year is particularly hard because of the many deaths of children LaGrange has experienced in 2013.
“Every loss is personal and I feel like it is the obligation of the angel to make sure that these people who are going through this know that they are not alone and there are people who they don’t even know who share their sorrow,” Reyes said.
Bricks are available for purchase all throughout the year. Those interested can visit the “Angel of Hope – Lagrange, Georgia” Facebook page or contact Reyes at (706) 302-6327 or Taylor at (706) 885-1745. However, the bricks can only be purchased in honor of a child, whether it’s a baby, young adult or adult child.
Past years of the Angel of Hope service have drawn a crowd of 150 people or more. This year, 360 invitations have been sent out, although it’s open to all community members.