Blind Melon fans, many others remember Hoon
PUBLISHED: 09-25-06 5:00 AM EST
-- Nestled deep in a wooded cemetery here, a young man's grave provides
peace and comfort to a growing number of people around the world who
call it "home" every year.
(By Jennifer Christos/Journal & Courier)
Shannon Hoon's mother, Nel Hoon (right), laughs with longtime friend Frieda Gascho on Saturday night inside the gravesite tent.
The women shared stories and fond memories of Hoon at the vigil.
Lafayette native Shannon Hoon, former lead singer for Blind Melon, was only 28 when his life ended on Oct. 21, 1995.
mother, Nel Hoon, began holding graveside vigils as a way to cope with
her grief. Twenty friends and family members attended the first vigil
Over 400 people attended the 10th annual vigil over the
weekend, which began at dusk on Saturday and continued through the
"The vigils saved my life," said Nel Hoon. "I now have direction and meaning and a constructive way to remember Shannon."
ever-increasing "extended family" of Blind Melon fans comes from all
over the U.S., Canada, England, Italy, Amsterdam, Serbia, New Zealand,
and Australia. Many drive for days to reach Indiana, and once here
sleep in their cars or set up camp inside the cemetery.
Hoon insists on
"sober vigiling". No drugs, no alcohol, no exception. She expects
everyone to behave respectful at the cemetery and to clean up
afterward, and they do.
Marika Cisari, 30, made her first trip to the U.S. from Italy to attend this year's vigil.
Ben Clement, 23, of Toronto, Canada, said a feeling inside compels him to come every year.
"It's like New Year, like a cleansing," he said. "Every
year I face obstacles coming here, and every year things just manage to
work out. I don't even feel I have a choice, I just have to come."
Clement said the first time he met Nel, he got all choked up.
"I come back because I love putting a smile on her face," he said. "I don't even get this feeling in my own home."
year, Nel Hoon sets up a large tent over her son's gravesite, rents a
portable toilet, and provides chairs, blankets, and carpeting to ensure
And she doesn't let anyone leave empty handed.
Every year she makes hundreds of tiny crafts to give away. This year,
she gave angel necklaces made from large, angular paper clips, beads,
and some string. Concerned about people's safety in the dark cemetery,
she also handed out tiny flashlights.
Everyone at the vigil seemed
to want to see Nel as much as they wanted to visit Shannon's grave.
Many of them correspond with her throughout the year by e-mail, or
phone, and write her cards and letters.
Seventeen-year old Emily Anderson of Ohio was only 5 when Blind Melon was popular. "I can't put it into words, but it's so peaceful here," she said. She is among the growing number of teens who enjoy Blind Melon's music.
friends and family of Nancy Brockman and Kristin Smart, recent high
school graduates from Saskatchewan, can't understand why the girls
would drive for a week to spend the night in a cemetery.
said they instantly connected with other people at the vigil, and got
tears in their eyes when Nel greeted them with a big hug. "It's like the feeling we have when listening to Shannon's music is alive here," she said. "It's like being 5 and waiting for Santa Claus to come. No, it's better than that."
Twenty-eight-year old Jamie Shields, a singer/songwriter from New York, said the annual cemetery vigil is unique. "I don't know anything else like it," she said. "I'm Jewish and I find it very spiritual. I come here to recharge my batteries."
"Shannon gave us so much through his music, this is a way we can give something back," Smart said. "Nel makes us feel like we're part of her family."
Nel Hoon said she hopes the vigils will continue to keep her son's spirit alive well into the future.
"I hope people will still gather here to talk about Shannon, and Blind Melon, and their music, and Shannon's love of life," she said.
Surely many of them will also come to experience first hand the undying love this mother has for her son.