Remembering children lost to cancer

“Here in the heart of me, that’s where you’ll always be.” I am told that one of the greatest fears of families who lose a child to cancer is that their child will be forgotten. More than anything, they want to keep their child alive, if not in body, then at very least, in their hearts and in the hearts of others.


On the evening of September 30th, some 20 families affected by childhood cancer gathered at Eau Claire Market to do just that: honour the lives and memories of children taken by cancer. Not losing sight of the family nature of Kids Cancer Care, Time To Remember was suitably child-friendly with hot chocolate to warm our spirits as kids and parents of all ages crafted lanterns in honour of their lost loved ones.

Each family, each individual, brings their own special meaning to Time to Remember. I brought the only thing I could, a sincere desire to show solidarity with these families. In talking with families, I discovered that the experience of Time to Remember does not begin at 7 pm when they arrive at Eau Claire; it starts in the morning as they begin rummaging through old photos to choose just the right one for their lantern, each photo stirring new memories.


Time to Remember is a ritual, a rite, that begins early in the day and goes deep into the night. It brings families from all walks of life together to witness and share in their common loss. The symbolism of the warm light of the lanterns cutting through the darkness was not lost on the group meandering through Prince’s Island Park. The procession of families arrived at its destination, the amphitheatre of Market Square, where each family placed their child’s lantern. Gathered around the soft glow of these tiny lanterns, the group shared in a singing of Daniel Lavoie’s, Here in the heart of me. And with those words echoing through the night, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month came to a close.


Time to Remember is a fitting close to Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, an international initiative designed to illuminate the tragedy of childhood cancer and its devastating wake. With an overall survival rate of 82% for Canadian children with cancer, it is easy to lose sight of the work that remains. And yet, despite huge advances in research and care, childhood cancer is still the number one disease killing children today. So what of the children who do not make it? What of the families who lose these children? While remembering there children, Time to Remember reminds us of the work to be done — a cure for every child. You can easily fall into despondency when considering such tragedy, but hearing the families’ stories and how they have come through somehow offers you a healthy perspective on how best to support them–even if it’s as simple as just showing up.


I find it difficult to summarize the diverse experiences of these families into one message, but if I had to choose, it would be to always react to life positively and in such a way that honours its fragility and impermanence.

–Blair, childhood cancer survivor and volunteer

PS. You can get a sense of the evening from this photo collage of Time to Remember 2013, created by Monique de St. Croix of Unique Perspectives. We’re working on our photo collage for the 2014 event, so be sure to check back here or on our YouTube channel.