When entering the large conference room Saturday evening there were tables decorated with mementos of children who passed away as recently as a few months ago and as long ago as 1996.
Families stood proudly next to these tables quickly explaining how their child had passed from premature birth to SIDS to illnesses, while accepting embraces from parents and family members who understood their loss.
The M.I.S.S. Foundation and ASU's College of Human Services' Department of Social Work sponsored the conference, "When a Child Dies: The Vow to Remember, the Call to Comfort." The conference was held at the Radisson Fort McDowell Casino Hotel in Fountain Hills May 31 to June 4.
The conference gave families the opportunity to connect with their deceased children by grieving.
Leonila Cano stood alongside her husband, son and two daughters, handing out red roses to those at the conference to remember her deceased son, Eric Cano.
Leonila explained that Eric loved to give girls red roses for Valentine's day before his death at age 15.
Eric, a healthy and active teenager, had suffered a brain aneurism.
The Canos talked warmly about Eric and explained that the conference closing ceremony fell on Eric's birthday - he would have been 26 years old.
The conference also brought together panels of health care and bereavement professionals experienced in the aspects of losing a child. Other professionals focused on helping the family, as well as counseling.
The conference provided activities for the surviving children in the families.
Saturday's closing ceremonies featured a release of doves outside of the resort, followed by memorials, songs and a final proclamation of names and candle lighting.
Mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and friends were able to light a candle for their child and to grieve.
A speaker chose to recite a few words from a poem by Vicki Tushingham, "Just for today I will try to live through the next 24 hours and not expect to get over my child's death, but instead learn to live with it, just one day at a time."
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