‘It never goes away’

When Pauline Kolacia took the lit candle handed to her, it shook a bit in her hand as she used it to light another one on the table in front of her.

When it caught and the flame grew, it threw a bit of orange light onto her face.

The candle just lit was to honor her son, Bill Kolacia.

He was murdered in 1998.

There was a tear in her eye.

“Time goes by and it gets better,” she said, “but it never goes away.”

Kolacia, of Fort Dodge, was one of the members of the Homicide Survivors Support Group to gather at the Marion Home Thursday night for a vigil to honor those they had lost.

Jan Hanrahan, of Fort Dodge, shared a memory of her son, Mitchell Hanrahan. He was murdered in April 1998 in New Mexico.

“Fifteen years ago, there was a memorial service for Mitchell in Santa Fe,” she said. “I remember how beautiful the weather was.”

Hanrahan has been a member of the group since its founding in 1998. She has found comfort and safety in her fellow group members who give her something important for coping with a profound loss.

“They have all been through this,” she said. “It’s easy to talk to them.”

There is an acceptance among the group as well, an inner understanding.

“You don’t get told to get over it,” she said.

For Linda Goodno, coping with the loss of her son Bryan Hansen in 2004 was difficult enough. The Fort Dodge woman is now also trying to cope with the parole of Hansen’s killer, Troy T. Lee, in September 2012.

“It’s terrifying to think about every time I go out,” she said.

For Goodno, the fear she feels has left her isolated.

“Now he’s out and I’m in,” she said.

She shared some good memories of her son, a photograph in a table top frame reflected candlelight as she spoke.

“He always wanted me to butter his toast,” she said. “He loved the way I buttered his toast.”

As she broke into a smile, then a laugh, another memory bubbled up.

“He loved the way I cut up his baked potato too,” she said, still smiling.

The Rev. Peg Jackson, of Fort Dodge, began the evening by offering a prayer with the group.

“We pray for those we love, but see no longer,” she said.

Jackson emphasized that while no one can know what it feels like to lose a loved one as the group members have, the common experience of sharing pain and experiencing hope can help the healing process.

“Hope is the best and strongest remedy for sorrow,” she said.

After everyone had talked, the room fell silent for a few minutes as the candles continued to burn in their glass holders, each one lit for a life physically gone, but still loved and remembered.