Remembering those who left too soon

Kevin Spradlin Richmond County Daily Journal

October 15, 2013

ROCKINGHAM — It’s the opening of a box that, all too late, you remember it was to be a gift for the son that never came home.

It’s the voicemail message from the doctor’s office reminding you that there’s a three-month check-up for your daughter. Only your daughter doesn’t live there anymore. It’s flipping through a long-forgotten photo album and suddenly feeling the punch in your gut after seeing a photo of a baby’s room, decorated with excitement and love, that was never lived in.

More than four dozen area residents gathered Tuesday night at at Cole Plaza in downtown Rockingham to, instead of escaping the remdiners, rather remember the unborn and the far too many children who left this planet all too soon. Rebecca Phiffer, of Rockingham, organized the second-year event called “Footprints On Our Hearts” Candle Light and Memorial Celebration.

Phifer, supported by the Pee Dee Pregnancy Resource Center, lost her child due to a miscarriage in 2011. The pain is still there. At the podium, only a few words escaped her mouth before the tears began flowing freely. But as a testament to her strength, Phifer got through it. She was able to say her child’s name. Shiloh Wilson Phifer. And sometimes, all it takes is acknowledgement to get one step closer to closure.

Terri Robinson, director of the pregnancy resource center, said the government does not issue birth certificates unless the pregnancy reaches at least five months. The pregnancy center, Robinson said, issues a certificate of life regardless.

“Some might say it wasn’t mean to be,” Robinson said. “But it was meant to be. You were mothers and fathers. If you were pregnant, you were 100 percent pregnant.”

Rev. Jim Brown, of First Baptist Church in Ellerbe, read the names of 51 children who were lost early on. The reasons were many: stillbirth, miscarriage, remorse abortion, neonatal or accidental deaths among them.

Each of these children, Robinson said, “left too soon.”

Phifer has an older child. When Shiloh was lost, “I didn’t know how to take it. I was angry. Sad. Lonely. I didn’t know how to deal with that.”

She decided, however, that she couldn’t continue to live that way. Her child, the one still here, needed a mother.

Through poems, support of friends and strangers alike and time itself, Phifer has gotten by. But it’s not easy. Phifer hopes the event can become an annual gathering and that it grows. It can be a source of comfort for those who are still grieving, Phifer said.