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A Memory Grows from loss of child

Non-profit assists grieving families

Grieving parents gather to remember their lost children as part of an event sponsored by the non-profit A Memory Grows.
Grieving parents gather to remember their lost children as part of an event sponsored by the non-profit A Memory Grows.
Courtesy of A Memory Grows

On March 12, 2013, Anderson Maxwell Graham, affectionately known as "Max," made DeAndrea Dare a mother.

The former Associate Pastor at Aledo United Methodist Church said she never imagined the ways that Max would change her life — her first child, and her only son.

"Never did I know I could feel such a depth of love and such tremendous pain all at the same time,” Dare said. “He was so cute and looked mostly like his daddy, but he had my nose. He was absolutely perfect and looked so strong. It still takes my breath away sometimes to look at photos and realize all that should have been."

During an emergency C-section that required a 90 percent placental abruption, Max was stillborn.

"It took seven people's blood products to save me, but they were not able to resuscitate him," Dare said. "Max's life and his death changed us forever."

It was in her grief that Dare, 47, began to look for a way to channel her horrible misfortune into something positive.

She created A Memory Grows, a charitable organization that serves as an outreach to grieving parents, and as a resource to hospitals, clinics, hospice groups, churches, and other nonprofit organizations. It was founded in late 2016 as a legacy of Max, and Dare said it was something she needed to do.

"There are so many emotions that happen when you carry this type of grief that it is sometimes hard to break down one specific feeling because you carry so much all at once,” Dare said. “Many of those feelings are in tension with one another. I remember when I held Max for the first time I said, 'I've never felt so full. I've never felt so empty.' That was the beginning of my understanding of how we carry so many feelings and emotions together."

Photos and memorabilia help grieving parents remember lost children, part of the process by the non-profit A Memory Grows.
Photos and memorabilia help grieving parents remember lost children, part of the process by the non-profit A Memory Grows.

Responding to a tragedy

A Memory Grows offers retreats and special events for parents who are grieving the death of their child or children, which are based on either the age of the child at the time of death or the cause of death.

One recent retreat was designed for an event that shocked the country.

“In 2022, we expanded to offer retreats for parents whose children were murdered,” Dare said. “I also knew that eventually, we would respond to a mass shooting. On May 24 I knew it was time when the news of the Robb Elementary massacre in Uvalde, Texas, came across my phone screen. In partnership with another non-profit based in Fort Worth, whose director is from Uvalde, we were able to begin to have communication with the 21 families.

“Since then, we have made multiple trips to Uvalde and remain committed to walking beside them as they journey this very complex and multifaceted trauma.”

For two years, A Memory Grows has offered a dinner, candlelight service, and reception before Christmas for the families in Uvalde called A Night to Remember.

“Last year, during the week of the anniversary, we traveled to Uvalde to give the families handmade memorial flags and then we held a community candlelight service in Fort Worth on the evening of the anniversary,” Dare said.

The organization's retreats are just for parents, but their special events are open to siblings, extended family, and friends.

Special events include a Legacy 5K held in March, an event for fathers in June, the Wave of Light for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in October, and their Ceremony of Remembrance held after Thanksgiving in preparation for the holiday season.


Early memory

Dare said she has many wonderful and deeply meaningful memories since A Memory Grows' inception, but said one from the early days stands out.

“At our very first Ceremony of Remembrance, a mom attended to honor and remember her son who had died as a toddler.,” Dare said. “This mom had never had the opportunity to share her child and honestly was never given the space to even grieve. After the candlelight service and release of lanterns, she went to the reception where she made a token of remembrance to take home to honor her son.

“She was so incredibly proud of that ornament that she walked the entire reception hall and showed it to everyone. When she left she said, 'For the first time in 40 years I was able to say the name of my son.' I'll never forget that.”


Relatable people

Dare said one of the most important roles that her organization fills is simply providing grieving parents with access to people who can relate to their struggles.

“It is vital,” Dare said. “I believe the death of a child is one of the loneliest journeys anyone can walk, and in order to find our way, we need to have others who understand and can come alongside of us to listen, sit in silence, be present, and offer us the companionship and reminder that we are not alone,” Dare said.

A Memory Grows wants potential clients to understand that they “will be here for them whenever they are ready,” and that grief has no timeline.

"Love doesn't end, and his (Max's) death did not end the fact that I am forever his mom and he is forever my son,” Dare said. “I was going down a dark path that was filled with anger and yet I also had so much love, but I didn't know what to do with it because I didn't have my baby in my arms.

"The world could not see that I was a mom, and yet deep down I knew that I was. And so that is what I decided to focus on and put my energy into - that love, the love that would not let me go even in the midst of the darkness and sadness."

Visit https://amemorygrows.org for more information.


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