WEST ORANGE, NJ - In a deeply emotional Candle Lighting Ceremony this evening at the Toby Katz Center, the Nikhil Badlani Foundation sponsored the annual Compassionate Friends Candle Lighting, honoring the memory of children that have died.
A standing room only crowd filled the Lake Room as the Ceremony began. The Candle Lighting occurs simultaneously around the world, acknowledging the memory of loved children that died too young. Peter Renwick opened the ceremony, speaking of candles as 'lights of love' that transform 'darkness into light and despair into hope'. In speaking of the children that have passed, Renwick commented that as we come together to remember them, in that rebirth, that 'they are our children now'.
Prakash Mamtaney, Uncle of Nikhil Badlani, introduced the lighting of the Candles of Remembrance, each candle signifying a different component of the process: Grief, Courage, Memory, Love, and Hope.
Sunil Badlani, Father of Nikhil, read a poem called "And You're Still Here," touching upon the reflection of joyous time spent together and the pain that the reality of tragedy brings. Candles were lit around the room as the West Orange community listened to parents, siblings, and friends share poems and tributes about the passing of their loved ones. Sangeeta Badlani, overcome with emotion as she spoke of her son, was joined by her husband as she stood with tears in her eyes and softly said of Nikhil, 'You will never be forgotten'. Joanne Pollara, Principal of Pleasantdale School, shared about the death of her son in 2005. Peter Renwick, close friend of the Badlanis, shared that his last memory of Nikhil was the sound of Nikhil practicing a beautiful piece of music on the piano as it carried from his window.
The community then went outside in the misty evening to place floating candles in Degnan Pond.
The crowd was filled with relatives, friends, and supporters of the Badlani family, as well as other families that have lost loved ones. Mayor Parisi, Councilpersons Sue McCartney and Jerry Guarino, and BOE member Michelle Casalino also attended the touching ceremony.
In speaking with Ms. Pollara, she noted that this time of the year is especially difficult for families that have lost children. She said that "People are afraid to talk to you and ask you how you're doing. They don't want to upset you or make you cry. But what they don't realize is, you cry anyway. I miss my son every day."
While it is emotionally wrenching to imagine the depth of pain that is felt by those that lose children, the support of a caring West Orange Community, filled with residents young and old, was a comfort and encouragement that strengthened everyone there. Tonight's ceremony represented the heart and soul of the West Orange community. Though deeply wounded, together, we all move forward and light a candle to curse the darkness.