'The most expensive fraternity on earth'


On the third Friday evening of January 1979, 14 bereaved and heartbroken parents met in the parlor of the Westminster Church of the Brethren. Thus began the informal monthly meetings of the Compassionate Friends of Carroll County, a support group for parents who have experienced the deaths of their children.

I was there.

When the Compassionate Friends began in November 1978, Dott Hummel, who had lost two sons in a house fire, attended that first meeting. Residents of Carroll, the Hummels advertised in December to see if there a need existed for such a group in our county. Because of the telephone responses, they were assured of the need.

As members of the Westminster Church of the Brethren on Bond Street at Park Place in Westminster, they sought permission from their church to hold monthly meetings in the church's parlor.

A few years later, the Hummels moved to Pennsylvania. My husband, Paul, and I took the reins and continued to lead this important group.

We knew how much we needed it in 1971 when our only son, Mark, died after an arduous year-long bout with bone cancer.

Because of the benevolence and warm welcome of the Westminster Church of the Brethren, monthly meetings of the Compassionate Friends of Carroll County continue to meet there the third Friday of each month at 8 p.m.

For information, call Charlotte Russell, 410-876-2256 or Mary Jane Smith, 410-756-6215. They assist in leading the group.

Fifteen years ago, Donna Warner initiated a second group, the Compassionate Friends' Infants Group. This is for bereaved parents of miscarriages, stillborns and infants. Mrs. Warner continues to lead the group the fourth Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the parlor of the Westminster Church of the Brethren.

Information: 410-526-5985.

Throughout the past 20 years, hundreds of parents have availed themselves of the opportunities to meet with other parents who understand the heartache and misery of grieving the death of a child. We understand such pain and have paid dues to belong to the most expensive fraternity on earth.

Attending our meetings requires no monetary dues. There is no formal business. Knowing that they will be kept confidential, feelings can be shared -- or not. But we know that in sharing, our hearts and minds are bonded. We become friends. As good friends do, we call each other on birthdays and on the anniversaries of the deaths of our children.

We stick together, supporting each other during the trying times, giving each other a hug or having lunch together. After all, we are the Compassionate Friends of Carroll County.

Elinor Causey


Pub Date: 1/24/99

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