CHAZY — Pam Moser and Amy House carried hope with them as they traveled to Newtown on Saturday.
The world mourned with that Connecticut community on 12/14, for it marked a year since gunman Adam Lanza killed 20 Sandy Hook Elementary School first-graders and also six adults.
Today, however, a Christmas Box Angel statue will be dedicated in Newtown, giving the loved ones of those children — and they were all someone’s children, regardless of age, it is said — a place to grieve, remember and find solace.
Moser has been a kind of “angel assistant” as the money was raised to buy and erect the statue, for she was among the small group that brought the monument to Chazy’s Riverside Cemetery 11 years ago and was able to share her knowledge and offer encouragement over almost a year of effort.
And she will offer some words of hope at the dedication in Newtown at 7 tonight.
“Every year, as we stand around our Christmas Box Angel, our hearts will join with yours as we remember our little angels, our treasures in heaven,” she shared an excerpt from her short address via phone from Connecticut.
Chazy resident Carolyn Tetreault had set the stage for Moser’s involvement with those in Newtown who worked to bring an angel there, for after the shooting, she asked the Chazy Angel of Hope Group to hold a candlelight vigil in memory of those who perished at Sandy Hook Elementary.
They did so on the bitterly cold night of New Year’s Eve, and through that event, Moser was connected to Lisa Brown of Newtown.
“We bonded immediately,” Moser said. “Lisa lost a daughter a few years ago, and she always wanted to have an angel in Newtown. When this tragedy happened, she just felt the energy to do this.”
The Chazy contingent made and sold bracelets, raising more than $1,200 for the project.
“We just felt we had to do this,” said Moser, who lost her godchild, Charlotte Giles, in a car accident in England.
AUTHOR TO ATTEND
Novelist Richard Paul Evans commissioned the Christmas Box Angel statue in 1994 after one he wrote about in a worldwide best-seller that gives comfort to a woman grieving for a lost child. Parents who’d read the book had wished for an angel that could do the same for them.
Along with the one in Chazy, there are angel statues in Saranac Lake, Plattsburgh and Willsboro. Fundraising is ongoing for another planned for Moriah.
Evans and his assistant Lisa Johnson were expected to arrive in Newtown Saturday night, hopefully not deterred by winter weather, Moser said.
This will be the first angel dedication he has attended since the one in Chazy, she noted.
‘JUST LIKE ME’
Others in the North Country have been nurturing compassionate thoughts of the Newtown families with the arrival of 12/14.
On Friday, Dr. Ken Parker recalled a small bit of healing that happened there some months after the tragedy, when he and other volunteers accompanied three miniature donkeys from the Peru-based animal-therapy organization Thera-Pets to Newtown.
Among other places they visited was a day care adjacent to Sandy Hook Elementary, and a little boy there, Parker recalled, asked Thera-Pets volunteer Jackie Douglass how the organization got started.
“She told him Mr. Parker had a friend that had two donkeys that guarded his sheep,” he said. “She told him one died and the other one was so sad that it stood by the fence all day and brayed all the time.
“The little boy said to Jackie, ‘The donkey’s best friend died, and it stood by the fence and cried all the time?
‘That’s just like me.’”
Just making that connection with the long-eared, shaggy animal that visited the child’s day care, Parker said, may have helped him process his grief in some small fashion.
“I would say absolutely, he had a measure of healing.”
Thera-Pets had been asked to return to Newtown this week, but Parker had taken a fall a few weeks ago, and it seemed he might not be up to it — though he’s fine now.
As well, it appeared it might not be the best time to visit.
“Many, if not most, of the families (who lost loved ones) were going someplace else,” he said. “They were getting away from any kind of news coverage.”
Instead, Thera-Pets will return at a later date, he said.
No one will ever really know why Lanza, who also killed himself, perpetrated such a horrible act, he said.
But in ending the lives of the innocent, the man condemned their loved ones to an immeasurable grief.
“I would guess for the families that lost children — moms and dads — this will be part of their emotional structure for the rest of their lives,” Parker said sadly.
“All the time of the world isn’t going to heal this one.”
When the therapy donkeys go to work, whether after a tragedy such as Newtown or at a hospital or nursing home, a large part of their job is to provide a distraction.
“These people (in Newtown) are immersed in the worst kind of grief you can imagine,” Parker said. “But for a period of time, however short, they are not thinking about (their pain).
“And that’s important.”
Thera-Pets, whose donkeys make their home at Butternut Ridge Farm, along a variety of barn fowl and other animals, also conducts programs there for children with autism spectrum disorders, emotional and other challenges.
Parker has learned the best way to initiate contact between animal and human is to just let the donkeys take charge.
Somehow, they seem to know who needs them, he said.
“At almost every place we’ve ever been, somebody ... will put their arms around the donkey’s neck, kiss it and say something like, ‘I have never felt as much joy as I do now.’
And that happened in Newtown, Parker said, when a donkey named Celeste sought out a woman in a church and brought her comfort.
“I don’t know how it works, but I know that somehow they have this extraordinary intuitiveness.”
Amy House, a Chazy Angel Group member who is in Newtown, too, as is Moser’s daughter Heidi, has another kind of comfort to offer.
“I’m hoping to meet some of the grieved families,” she said, “to let them know there is hope.”
She, her husband, Sherb, and their family have traveled the journey of grief for 19 years, since their son, Scott, died in a car crash.
“You’ll never forget,” she said. “You certainly won’t get over it.
“But you forge ahead, you take baby steps — there is hope.”
Moser pins her hope on heaven; while life ends here, it goes on beyond our view, she believes.
House, who was angel assistant for the Willsboro project, also hopes to reassure those in Newtown that they will one day be able to celebrate the time their loved ones were here on earth.
“Scott’s earthly life has ended, but he gave so much to us,” she said.
At 6 p.m. every Dec. 6, vigils are held around every Christmas Box Angel, wherever they are. The Chazy Group held its first one in the midst of a snowstorm.
“And it was just magical,” Moser said, “the snowflakes coming down.”
At Newtown’s dedication, she said, where a winter storm was forecast for today, “it may be the same.”
Email Suzanne Moore:email@example.com
TO LEARN MORE
Find out about Christmas Box Angel statues and Richard Paul Evans's books at http://www.richardpaulevans.com/angel-statues.
Thera-Pets' services are free, and the group relies greatly on donations to make such trips as the one to Newtown and Sandy Hook in Connecticut.
To donate online, go to www.butternutridgedonkeys.org/therapets. Contributions are tax deductible, as Thera-Pets is a certified nonprofit charity.
Donations can also be sent to Thera-Pets, P.O. Box 319, Peru, NY, 12972. All donations should be marked to Thera-Pets.
To request a visit or to sign up for one of the farm programs go to HTTP://butternutridgedonkeys.org.
For matters relating to the farm, reach Barn Manager Holly Besaw at 643-2577.
To arrange a visit from the donkeys, call Dr. Ken Parker at 643-8295.