A longstanding Hospice tradition focused on remembering departed loved ones during the holiday season is undergoing a major change this year.
The Light Up a Life Celebration of life historically has been an event held in various churches throughout the Gorge, usually during the second week of January. The purpose of the events has been to provide a special venue for people to remember loved ones who have died, and other special people still living.
This year, instead of facilitating "events" to remember, hospice will be including the names of loved ones in a special newspaper memorial. Called The Memory Tree, the memorial will run in newspapers throughout the Gorge during the week of Jan. 16.
Deborah Whiting Jaques, executive director for Hospice of the Gorge said, "We wanted to expand the reach of the event this year, so that more people could benefit from it. Light Up a Life has been a tradition at Hospice for almost twenty years, but in recent years, we found too many people were unable to participate due to inclement weather. We even had to cancel some of the events in the last two years due to icy conditions."
Traditionally, a tapestry of music, inspirational readings and personal stories was woven around a reading of the names of people who died while on hospice the previous year. The names of other loved ones submitted to hospice were also included in the reading.
This year, instead of reading the names out loud, they will be available to everyone in the Gorge to read in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.
Jaques has mixed feelings about the change. She said, "The Light Up a Life Celebrations have always been so lovely and touching -- and people attending the events were always so moved by them. Still, given the snow and ice at this time of year, we were worried about asking people to venture out of their homes. So the Memory Tree newspaper memorial seemed to be a reasonable option."
Jaques said that in addition to the newspaper memorial, Hospice is asking people to create their own personal ritual. She suggests lighting a candle each year; gathering friends and family to tell stories; starting a memory journal; writing a poem; creating a photo journal or burning some incense.
She added, "Do whatever makes sense to you, to help you keep your loved-ones alive in your hearts and minds. We know how important it is to keep memories alive, and what better way to do it, than by creating a private family ritual that can live on for years."
Here's one idea: consider creating a Memory Basket ritual:
Create a special place for pictures of loved ones.
Place a small "memory basket" in front of each.
Write down a memory or thought each day, and place it in the basket.
Ask family and friends to add to the basket.
Gather family and friends to read the memories.
Save the memories in a scrap book or bring them out again next year and add more.
Hospice of the Gorge asks you to help them gather ideas for memory rituals, which they can share with others in the future.
Send your ideas to Hospice of The Gorge: Hood River, P.O. Box 36, Hood River, Ore. 97031 or The Dalles, 751 Myrtle St., The Dalles, Ore. 97058.