As the years pass, holidays spent without loved ones don’t get any easier to bear. But it’s comforting to know that there are others going through the same thing and there are organizations dedicated to remembering loved ones during what can be the hardest time of year.
Onslow Memorial Hospital Auxiliary will be having its annual Tree of Hope lighting ceremony at 7 p.m. Thursday on the front lawn of the hospital, 317 Western Blvd. During the ceremony, a hospital board member, city councilman and a U.S. Marine will speak. The event will also include music by a men’s quartet and the performance of a commencement song, said Elke Lyszczarz, auxiliary president.
“A light on the tree represents a person who has given donations to the tree of hope,” she said, adding that the tree serves as a “remembrance or showing of admiration for someone you love.”
The auxiliary has been doing the tree lighting ceremony since 1985, and proceeds from the event goes toward the hospital for its needs, Lyszczarz said.
“The tree is the only lit tree on the hospital ground,” she said. “It’s for all to see and anyone that sees it that has made a donation remembers what it’s for. We respect everyone and we want to remember them this way.”
The tree, the auxiliary president said, shows the community that they care.
“It’s a symbol of hope,” she said.
Onslow Memorial Hospital isn’t the only organization remembering those lost. Local funeral homes and cemeteries are participating in a ceremony as well.
“It’s a beautiful moment in a sad time,” Brenda Gibson said of Onslow Memorial Park’s annual candlelight service.
The Onslow Memorial Park family counselor said she felt privileged to be a part of the ceremony in her 11 years of employment there.
The park’s candlelight ceremony will be at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the mausoleum, where there will be music by Joel and Heather Christopher and refreshments.
“We hope it brings (those grieving loved ones) together, to know they’re not the only ones going through this,” she said. “There are people you can talk to about this.”
For some people, she said, it’s been 25 years since their loss while for others it’s been just a few days, but it doesn’t get any easier.
Boy Scout Troop 216 will be providing the luminaries and donations get a luminary placed on a specific grave. About 4,000 candles will be placed across the cemetery, which Gibson said is beautiful to see once the ceremony is over.
“It’s a heartwarming moment because it’s not so sad in that moment,” Gibson said, going on to say that all the cemetery’s features like benches and its well will be lit by the luminaries.
Johnson Funeral Home in Jacksonville will also have a candlelight memorial service at 7 p.m. Thursday. At the beginning of the ceremony, a register book will be available for people to sign the name of the person they’ve lost, which will be read at the end of the evening. There will also be songs, a devotion given by a minister, lighted candles, and a moment of silence.
“It’s difficult to lose a loved one at any time of the year, but it’s especially difficult during the holidays when you don’t have them,” Johnny Thompson, location manager said.