Sunday, March 31, 2013 | 2:40 p.m.
Surrounded by her children, the woman began to cry as she remembered the one child she had lost.
Dave Hickey was stuffed inside his Easter Bunny suit nearby. He could hardly see, the cool breeze was barely penetrating the massive foam head he was wearing, and sweat was dripping down his back. But as the woman followed her children toward him, he leaned forward and gave her a hug.
It was a gesture of support, a small offering to let her know she wasn’t alone. More than 2,500 people gathered Sunday at the Palm Eastern Mortuary to hear that message. It was the 28th year the Palm had offered the sunrise service. It’s way for people to remember their loved ones and be around others in mourning.
As the head groundskeeper for the 40 acres of funeral plots for 22 years, Hickey has seen many a dry eye flooded with tears.
“You never say you understand how they feel, because you don’t,” Hickey said.
He spends his time outside on the grounds, and on Easter Sunday he rises at 2 a.m. with a cup of coffee in one hand and a Coke in the other. But Hickey has learned when to step away and when to stay.
“All they want is someone to listen,” he said. “You run into those families that come out every year, and you see that gleam in their eye.”
For the past 16 years, Gina Costa has been one of the regulars. Now she brings her husband and her three children to the Easter ceremony and to pay respects to her father. The memories often bring tears, but they’re tears of joy, she says.
“The serenity of coming here, it’s so calm and peaceful,” she said.
And she’ll be back. She said the lessons of renewal and resurrection are important for her children.
General Manager Glenn Abercrombie said the family of seven cemeteries provides multiple gatherings like the Easter service as a way to help families through times when they may be thinking of their loved ones the most. The cemeteries in the Palm family provide several services around Christmas and a service on Memorial Day.
“I think everyone likes to be a part of a community,” Abercrombie said. “Everybody wants to experience life renewed.”