KINGSTON — Just as he has done every May 9 for the past 28 years, Lenny Srebro, of Scranton, took the day off from work and visited places where he used to go with his daughter, Tyna.
Then he went to the cemetery, because it was the anniversary of the day she lost her life — at 17 — and planted a flower on her grave.
“I like going back there,” he told a meeting of The Compassionate Friends later that Wednesday evening. “This may sound strange, but as much as it hurts, I want to experience the pain again, because the pain comes from love.”
The Friends nodded, listening with sympathy and respect.
Their group — a local chapter of an international organization for bereaved parents — gets together on the second Wednesday of each month in a parlor at the Church of Christ Uniting.
Here they encourage each other, listen, and try to ease each other’s burdens.
“It’s almost as if we adopt each other’s children,” said Gloria Falcucci, of Kingston, who has been grieving the loss of her adult son, Danny, for nine years. “We get to know them.”
During the recent meeting, the group sat in a circle and took turns introducing themselves.
Geri Lynn Terrinoni, of Clarks Summit, said she honors the memory of two babies, Theresa Anne and Michael John.
“They were babies,” she emphasized. “I held both of them. I held Theresa until she passed, and I held Michael. He was so small, he fit into the palm of my hand.”
Beth Nelson, from the Shickshinny area, said she lost her daughter, Karen, to a malignant brain tumor at age 44.
“It was tough. It was inoperable,” Nelson said, explaining her daughter’s ordeal had begun much earlier with a cancer diagnosis at age 8.
“She couldn’t walk or talk after the operation,” Nelson recalled. “She couldn’t go to public school, and the radiation stunted her growth.”
Eventually, Karen recovered enough to get a job as a greeter at a local store.
“The check-out girls still miss her,” Falcucci said.
Giving The Compassionate Friends an update on recent activities, Kitty Moules, of Larksville, said her family is honoring the memory of her son, Kristopher, who died in 2016 at the Luzerne County Corrections Facility, by setting up scholarships for children of his fellow corrections officers.
The family also is financially supporting such sports activities as Challenger Baseball and a Tunkhannock church’s archery program.
“Kristopher would like that,” Falcucci said.
Another grieving mother, Tammy Sulewski, of Hanover Township, said she plans to host the screening of a suicide prevention movie in honor of her son, Robert, in July at Movies 14 in Wilkes-Barre.
“That’s awesome,” Moules told Sulewski.
When it was his turn to speak, grieving father Tom Johnson, of Bear Creek Township, pointed out, “This is a club nobody wants to join.”
But now that they are in the club, Falcucci said, “it’s good to feel safe and loved among people who have been and are still sharing the same journey.”
It’s also helpful, she said, to talk about the child who died.
Her son, who was a few weeks short of his 51st birthday when he lost his life in a 2009 car accident, was a talented musician.
“He was the one they’d always call when somebody wanted a strolling violinist,” Falcucci said, reminiscing about how her son surprised and pleased older folks by knowing the songs they requested. “He’d play something like ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart.’ One man gave him a $100 tip and said, ‘You made me so happy.’”
Margaret McGurk, whose 35-year-old daughter, Colleen, lost a battle with cancer in April, also had happy musical memories
“She had the most beautiful voice that God gave her,” McGurk said. “She performed at the Kirby Center.”
But McGurk’s grief is still very fresh.
“She died in my arms,” McGurk said, wiping away tears. “I was grateful I was able to do that for her.”
“How do you go on?” she asked the Compassionate Friends with whom she was just becoming acquainted. “My heart breaks for everyone in this room.”
Srebro, remembering the newcomer had mentioned another daughter and a grandson “who doesn’t understand why his aunt isn’t here to play with him anymore,” focused on that.
“I have another daughter too,” he said, thinking back to the aftermath of Tyna’s death, when she died instantly after being hit by a train. “I made a mistake. I forgot about my other daughter, and it drove a wedge between us. She was a quiet girl, and I thought she was all right. I had to realize she was absolutely grieving too.
“I’m just saying, don’t forget about your other kid.”
McGurk nodded, and acknowledged later that coming to the meeting had made her feel less alone.
“I will come back,” she said.
At one point in the meeting, Ed Kyle, of Hunlock Creek, who plans to salute his son, David, by pouring a shot of vodka onto his grave at Arlington National Cemetery, read the Compassionate Friends credo aloud. It said, in part: “Some of us are angry, filled with guilt or in deep depression, while others radiate an inner peace. But whatever pain we bring to this gathering of The Compassionate Friends, it is pain we will share, just as we share with each other the love for the children who have died.”
“We are all seeking and struggling to build a future for ourselves, but we are committed to building a future together. We reach out to each other in love to share the pain as well as the joy, share the anger as well as the peace, share the faith as well as the doubts and help each other to grieve as well as to grow. We need not walk alone. We are The Compassionate Friends.”
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.