Mommy’s Light helps a grieving family create their own ritual

A year after his wife, Carolyn, died of cancer, Leroy Nunery and his two children, daughter Jackie and son Leroy III, are continuing Carolyn’s cookie-baking tradition.

Nunery, vice president of Business Services, said keeping alive Carolyn’s love of baking has helped the family through the grieving process.

Talking also helped. Nunery said that while speaking about the subject is painful, he continues to do so because of the potential good that could come out of it.

“I continue to talk to people from the moment I found out she was terminally ill to this day because … if I bottle it all in, it’s not going to do me any good, and I also don’t know who else I can help,” said Nunery. That desire to share with those who need help is why Nunery and his children appeared on CN8’s “Real Life” on March 6 to demonstrate their family ritual of remembrance.

Every Oct. 8 on Carolyn’s birthday, Nunery and his kids choose a recipe from a binder, 50 pages long, full of ideas for baking chocolate chip cookies.

The TV show was a way to tell others about Mommy’s Light, a nonprofit group which serves local children, ages 3 to 18, whose mothers are in a life threatening situation or deceased.

The recipe book the Nunerys use comes from Mommy’s Light.

“Dad’s not a bad cook,” said Nunery. “He’s nothing like Carolyn but I think the biggest thing for the kids was that it

wasn’t a scary thing. When those cookies were being baked, something special was happening.”

But welcoming Mommy’s Light, which had heard of Nunery’s situation through his church, Paoli Presbyterian, was not easy. Nunery said he felt a little apprehensive about bringing in an outside organization.

In the end, though, he felt comfortable with Mommy’s Light’s non-intrusive approach.

“For them it’s mostly helping you create in your mind what you want the event to be.”

Whatever the activity, whether baking or planting mom’s favorite flowers, Nunery said its important to take time out to “build on” a loved-one’s memory.

“Just because this is something that’s bad that has happened, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate it,” Nunery said. “We should bring forth that which is good and let the world see that you’re proud of it.”

This past October, Nunery and his kids toasted Carolyn’s life over a plate of warm cookies.


More about Mommy’s Light at www.mommyslight.org.

Originally published on March 28, 2002