Learning to grieve

Group offers mutual support during difficult time of year

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

VACAVILLE - Vesta Thompson can still hear the laughter of her son.

David Wilson was 28 when he was hit by a car on North Texas Street slightly more than a year ago while driving his motorcycle.

He was rushed to John Muir Medical Center, where for two days he drifted between the conscious and unconscious world.

Thompson remembers he was responsive at times, but he couldn't speak because of the respirator in his mouth. She said he recognized her as she stood at the foot of his bed. And he stared at her - for the last time.

One week later, he died, leaving behind a 2-year-old daughter and two stepchildren.

"We know when you have a child riding a motorcycle he's taking a chance. But when you have someone who was so conscious when he's on the bike and to have something like this happen . . . " she said before trailing off to a memory.

Four months later, Thompson and her husband, Rob, attended The Compassionate Friends "Candle Lighting Service" in Vacaville, an annual memorial service for families grieving the death of a child.

"The candle lighting helps us recognize those who we lost and helps with that sense of loss you get especially during the holidays," she said. "If not for the candle lighting service, we would not be aware of the group and would not have this outlet of celebrating Christmas with David and with people who understand."
The Compassionate Friends, which will hold its annual event at 7 p.m. Sunday at The Hampton Inn in Vacaville, is a national nonprofit self-help support organization that offers friendship and hope to bereaved loved ones. Its success is due to seasoned grievers who reach out to newly bereaved.

"There's a feeling of warmth and support and it is because of our mutual losses," Thompson said.

Compassionate Friends understand each other's pain, she said, without speaking the words.

"Losing a 40-year-old son is the same as losing a 2-year-old, the pain is just as real," she said. "People don't understand that. They think after one year, the pain will go away. This is my son. They just don't get it."

The Compassionate Friends has a presence in nearly 30 countries along with nearly 600 chapters in the United States. Services on Sunday will be celebrated globally.