Healing memories

After a tragedy, vital memories of a loved one can stay vivid through photographs.

“After Jamie died, I started going through pictures,” Dan Buenting said. “There were so many events in our lives that I hadn’t completely forgotten about, but sometimes a picture will jog your memory. It will take you back to the very day.”

Dan Buenting is the father of Jamie Buenting, the Rockwell City Police Officer killed in the line of duty last September. He is also the newest member of the Homicide Survivors Support Group, which met Sunday for its annual vigil.

Buenting and other members brought photos in order to share the good memories with others.

“I kicked myself that Jamie and I never had a picture taken together,” Buenting said. “I had completely forgot that a matter of days before I retired, he said get your uniform on, get your car, we’ve got to get a picture together.”

The forgotten photo had never been developed, Buenting said, and he discovered it on a memory stick. It Dan and Jamie Buenting, both police officers, in their police uniforms and standing next to their respective cruisers.

Dan Buenting had dealt with tragedy before, but he said no one can understand it who hasn’t experienced it.

“Numerous times when I was working I had to knock on somebody’s door at 2, 3 or 4 in the morning to give them terrible news,” he said. “I could empathize, but I couldn’t truly sympathize with them. I couldn’t imagine their loss.”

“That’s what’s so special about this group,” said Anita Michael. “We relate to each other. It’s wonderful, but it’s also awful being here in this group.”

The group meets every month.

“The homicide group is a huge source of support for one another. They’ve all gone through something very similar,” said group organizer Marie Harvey.

Everyone there had lost a loved one to homicide. Michael’s daughter Holly Nichole Michael died on Jan. 26, 2006, after being severely injured in a fire more than two weeks earlier. leaving behind a son.

“He has his mother’s dimple,” Michael said.

In addition to sharing photos, each member lit a candle and said a few words in memory of their loved on.

“We want to hear our child’s name,” Michael said. “We want others to remember.”

Sessions Harper was convicted of first-degree murder in her death and is now serving a life sentence.

The Rev. Al Henderson led the group in a reflection and prayer. He and the group talked about the need to both keep the memories alive, and help with each others’ hurt – but not to become stuck and fail to heal.

“It is good to go back, but not to get caught in that valley of the shadow,” Henderson said. “It’s good to come back here, but not to stay here. God has more in mind for us.”