By Tony Wittkowski | Reporter | MLive – Muskegon Chronicle
MUSKEGON, MI — Melissa Near knows what it’s like to lose a child.
In 2003, Near and her husband, Chris, lost their daughter from stillbirth at 35 weeks of pregnancy. Three weeks later, her dad approached her for a support group.
“We weren’t sure, but as time went on more and more doors were opening,” the Muskegon resident said. “As we were leaving the hospitals, it seemed like this was something the Lord was calling us to do. We opened our home and did meetings.”
The Walk to Remember came to fruition from the experience and has since helped many parents with their loss. This year’s event is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 4 at Heritage Landing.
This event was created for anyone who has been touched by the loss of a child from pregnancy loss, stillbirth or early infant death, Near said. These losses are collectively called perinatal losses, with more than a million of these deaths being recorded every year.
“We walk to remember our loved ones, to celebrate and mourn them, and to raise awareness of these types of losses,” Near said. “We usually bring our photo album of our daughter. There are all sorts of pictures of her and our family and other scrap-booking things.”
One of the other mementos Near will bring are letters her husband writes from their daughter’s perspective. Attendees are encouraged to bring anything from baby pictures to teddy bears for the memorial table. The walk also includes a short service and a ceremonial balloon release.
The walk began in 2004, shortly after the couple’s loss. The idea came from another Walk to Remember they attended in Grand Rapids.
For Near and her husband, the walk provides them with a time where they can reflect and remember their daughter. People will sing, share a poem or a story close to their heart.
“It doesn’t get any easier. What we find is that when we comfort others, it comforts us as well,” Near said. “We have that hope we can see her again. Every year it’s a very touching time when many tears are shed.”
With the added comfort of others, the walk is one that gives parents a chance to celebrate a life.
“It doesn’t matter how long ago your loss was or how early your loss was,” Near said. “A loss is a loss no matter how far along you were with your pregnancy. That’s your child and we want you to be able to remember them because it affects us all.”
Registration and balloon personalization begins at 10 a.m. If you would like to share your story, a letter to your baby, a poem or a song in memory of a baby, contact the Nears so you can be scheduled in the program. Call 231-777-1983 and talk to Chris or Melissa.
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Oct. 2, 2014)