Walters: ‘We will see them again’

Nearly 100 gather for memorial for children lost too soon 

By Kevin Spradlin

ROCKINGHAM — Ernie Walters and his wife, Karen, suffered the unimaginable in 1997 — or, as the Roberdel Baptist Church pastor noted, “17 years, 1 month and 22 days ago.”

That’s when 3-year-old Mathew Dylan Walters drowned.

Kevin Spradlin | Rebecca Phifer helps Evans Hodges read the opening prayer at the start of the third annual Footprints On Our Hearts memorial ceremony.

Kevin Spradlin |
Rebecca Phifer helps Evans Hodges read the opening prayer at the start of the third annual Footprints On Our Hearts memorial ceremony.

Time, Walters said Wednesday before a somber audience of nearly 100 people at Cole Plaza in downtown Rockingham, doesn’t heal all wounds.

“There are times when it feels like yesterday,” Walters said.

Walters was the last of three speakers in the 75-minute-long third annual Footprints On Our Hearts. Organized by Rockingham resident Rebecca Phifer in 2012 with the help of the faith-based Pee Dee Pregnancy Resource Center on North Lawrence Street, the event is meant to show compassion for the children lost to miscarriages, accidents and other events that took the lives the people left behind still care about so deeply.

The local gathering is part of a worldwide effort called Wave of Light, organizers of which strive for luminaries in the honor of children who died before their time to be remember for a 24-hour period each year.

It puts those who have experienced a similar loss in touch with others. The comfort, Walters said, is encouraging. When Mathew died, friends, family and members of his church family came to offer their condolences. To a person, everyone had the best of intentions. But there was something missing. The people didn’t, couldn’t, truly comprehend what Walters and his wife were going through.

Kevin Spradlin | Approximately 140 luminaries were lit to honor and remember the lives of children who departed their families too soon.

Kevin Spradlin |
Approximately 140 luminaries were lit to honor and remember the lives of children who departed their families too soon.

“They intended well, but they didn’t understand,” Walters said. “All of you know well. Unless it’s your child’s name read, you can’t possibly know.”

Names of those people here still cherish and remember — from Baby Dewit in 1954 to Baby Grant, who died March 27, 2014 — were read off a list by Cayce Terry. There were more than 100 names read aloud amidst sniffles and quiet tears as family members huddled together.

Walters offered three Bible-based points that he hoped would help offer some level of comfort. First, he said, the children didn’t die in vain.

“They’re still making a lasting effect,” Walters said, by being remembered by so many and loved so much. “Their life was not incomplete.”

From the Book of Job, Walters said that “even in times of great suffering,” that God “refines our faith.”

Walters countered that people have lost their children. That’s not necessarily true, he said — they’re just not here.

“You still have your child,” he said, “who’s in heaven.”

And perhaps most important, Walters said, is that the Bible assures believers that they will be reacquainted with loved ones after parting the earthly world.

“For those of us who have children already there … we will see them again,” Walters said.

Walters encouraged those present to not take a single minute with loved ones for granted.

“Cherish every moment,” he said.

Monica Povish, of Rockingham, spoke on behalf of her sister-in-law, Nikki Curry Hunt. Hunt lost baby Madison Hope Curry and Povish lost both baby Guinn and baby Allen. Shortly after Madison was born, she was whisked away to a children’s hospital in Winston-Salem for open heart surgery. She made it through the surgery, Povish said, but her heart later stopped and she was put on life support. Hunt had to make a terrible decision.

Hunt became pregnant a third time and, once again, was rushed to the hospital at 31.5 weeks for another emergency C-section. Baby Cameron was born at 4 pounds, 8 ounces. Then, in 2013, Hunt was pregnant a fourth time. It was a girl, and the pregnancy was completed without a hiccup.

“I felt like Madison sent me an angel,” Hunt said through Povish.

Phifer acknowledged that despite the circumstances in which a child was lost, there is a common, if unwanted, bond.

“Everyone is hurting the same way I am,” Phifer said. “I was in a lot of pain.”

Mindy Griffin was six weeks along when she found out she was pregnant with Bentley. At 18, she was only four months out of high school and attending Richmond Community College in pursuit of becoming a certified nursing assistant. One morning, she woke up. Her water broke. She was bleeding. And only 23 weeks along, it was far too soon.

At 11:05 a.m., Bentley was born at only 1 pound, 2 ounces and 11 inches. He was rushed to a Fayetteville hospital. On Feb. 3, 2011, Griffin was still in her hospital bed when her parents entered the doorway. It was 2 a.m. The parents just stood stay.

Though no one had yet been notified, Griffin’s heart dropped. Two minutes later, a doctor from Fayetteville called to say that her son had just passed.

“I felt like the whole world came crashing down,” Griffin said.

Flash forward to May 31, 2013. Griffin learned she was pregnant again. On Dec. 16, 2013, she went to the bathroom and suddenly fell ill. The next day, Griffin realized she hadn’t felt baby Webb move as he normally did. She was 33 weeks along. She called her doctor. The doctor conducted two sonograms. No heartbeat.

She was sent home and told to come back the next day. On Dec. 18, 2013, baby Webb was stillborn at 10:33 a.m. He weighed 3 pounds, 8 ounces and measured 17 inches.

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Religion

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