The holidays are tough for anyone who has lost a loved one, especially a child.
For Debra Allsup, December is a difficult but special time to remember her daughter, Katie Ridenhour.
Katie's birthday is Dec. 14, and she died just three days after Christmas in 2005 at age 13 from small-cell ovarian cancer.
"It does feel harder," Allsup said of the holidays. "It feels like something is missing in my family."
On Saturday, Allsup is holding the fourth annual A Time for Special Remembrance, which she started in Katie's honor, for parents who have lost children and their families. The service starts at 7 p.m. at Christ's Sanctified Holy Church at 136 N. Belair Road in Evans.
"It is meant to uplift," Allsup said. "It is meant to encourage you and it is meant to get you through the holidays."
Part of the service includes placing ornaments in the child's honor on an outdoor Christmas tree. Parents can bring their own ornaments, and ornaments that can be personalized will be provided.
The service will include music, prayer and guest speaker Jerry Vaughn, who lost his daughter, Nikki, in January 2004.
"I wanted to have a man's perspective. I wanted a dad's perspective," Allsup said. "I wanted a man's view because men hurt, too."
Nikki, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 6, died just three days before her 30th birthday.
"Women and men are different though," Vaughn said. "The way we handle grief is different than the ladies."
Vaughn said he knows his experience losing a child, whose tumor didn't grow for 24 years, is different from those who lose children tragically young or unexpectedly.
Vaughn said his daughter, who was very outgoing and friendly, was an inspiration to others. And he hopes by sharing her story that he will encourage others.
"It's good to talk about it," Vaughn said.
Vaughn said the holidays are a tough time, especially since Nikki died on Jan. 2. But, he and his wife, Dale, revel in remembering their daughter's ways and quirks.
He agreed to speak at the service for one reason.
"Basically to try to encourage one another and thank God we have memories," Vaughn said. "We still laugh and enjoy sweet memories that we've had."
Remembrance is the purpose for the service, Allsup said. She organized and named the service based on Katie's last words to her mother: "Remember the difference I showed you."
"That's the whole purpose, to remember them and not necessarily with tears," Allsup said. "No matter how long you have your children, they make a difference in your life. ... They do change you, no matter how long you have them. They affect your life and they change you."
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