By DANYEL VANREENEN
KEARNEYSVILLE, W.Va. — For most, Christmas can be a time of celebration and joy. However, for some in the community, it’s also a time of remembrance.
The Hospice of the Panhandle volunteers and staff held the Light Up a Life Luminaria ceremony and fundraiser to benefit hospice patients Sunday evening after a long weekend of community parades and celebrations.
The luminaria ceremony was a more somber celebration and observance of the Christmas season. The hospice driveway was lined with candles of remembrance. Various yards and walkways around the facility were aglow as well.
Maria Lorenson, development director of Hospice of the Panhandle, said there were 13,000 bags present. Each one representing a hospice patient, a family member or friend of the Berkeley and Jefferson County communities.
“It’s a way to memorialize the people we love,” Lorenson said. “Many of whom have passed, some of whom are still alive. It’s a great way during the holidays to capture people we don’t want to forget. Perhaps those are people who are no longer alive, but are still in our hearts.”
The impact of the event spreads throughout the community.
“It means a lot to the community,” said Linda Benbrook, a Hospice of the Panhandle volunteer. “It’s a way to show our appreciation to those who donate to the Hospice of the Panhandle.”
According to Lorenson, the proceeds from the memorials are used to cover patient care at the facility. She added the insurance doesn’t always cover all medical costs, or sometimes the patients need or want something special. The funds from the luminaria ceremonies go toward helping those patients financially, and allowing them to be more comfortable at the facility.
Charlyn Ely, one of the donors memorializing loved ones at the event, said she had memorials placed for her deceased parents and veteran husband, as well as a recently deceased pet.
“It’s very touching,” Ely said. “It doesn’t make the loss easier, but it’s something to help ease the pain — and it brings people together.”
The luminaria ceremony itself was hosted inside the Hospice of the Panhandle building. It was a simple ceremony followed by staff members reading aloud the names of all those memorialized. The Spring Mills High School string quartet provided music during the ceremony, while Margaret Cogswell, CEO of Hospice of the Panhandle, welcomed donors and offered her thanks for sharing their losses and loved ones at the event.
The Rev. Dr. G.T. Schramm, of Trinity Episcopal Church in Shepherdstown, also offered words of reflection at the ceremony.
“It’s human to get stuck feeling like there’s more darkness than light sometimes,” Schramm said. “But there are so many kinds of light. Sometimes it’s the light in someone’s eyes. When I’m looking at the tiny flickering lights of remembrance, I remember light can dispel the darkness of loneliness and grief. I remember the light of life, love and hope is brighter than the darkness.”
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