A candlelight vigil was held at Elizabethtown Community Park to mark a year since a teenager was fatally beaten there, not only in his memory but to help all who are healing from the loss of a loved one.
“There is no time limit on grief and there is no manual for handling it,” Stacie Wagner said as she opened the event held Sunday, Aug. 11. The vigil included songs led by Shannon Lee and a message from Nick Ressler, pastor of Conoy Brethren In Christ Church.
Blake Shearer was beaten in the park on Aug. 6, 2018, by a man upset over loud music and died at a hospital four days later at the age of 16. Wagner, a friend of the family, said the family was grateful for the prayers, love and support that followed.
“All of those kind and simple gestures meant so much,” Wagner said.
Ressler shared his personal experience dealing with loss. He said he had wanted to be a father for a long time.
“Long before I was certain I wanted to be a husband, I was sure that I wanted to be a dad. … All the things that I appreciated my parents doing with me, you dream of doing those things with your children,” Ressler said.
Ressler said he was overjoyed when his daughter was born, but she had a medical condition that caused her to die a month later. He said he asked himself, “Was there anything I could do to change what was going to happen?” He questioned how God could let it happen.
Eventually, he was able to dream of fatherhood again. But when he and his wife had another child, she had the same condition and she also died.
“Suddenly, I was a pastor without a prayer. … It was like God just shut me out,” Ressler said.
Ressler said what helped him was to think of the account in the New Testament of an angel appearing to Mary and saying the child she was carrying was Immanuel, a Hebrew name meaning “God with us.”
“It is hard to feel that God is with us, but God is with us,” Ressler said.
He told the people gathered in the park’s amphitheater that they might know everyone present or nobody present, but even if all the others are strangers, they all have in common that they have experienced a loss.
“What you can know tonight is that you’re not alone,” Ressler said.
Wagner closed the event by noting that she was glad to see so many young people in the amphitheater. And she said helping others through grief is a simple matter.
“Just be kind. Just be there. All you’ve got to do is just be,” she said.