On a cold night in the darkest season, about 25 people gathered last Thursday night to honor loved ones for Hospice of Homer’s third annual Light Up a Life display of luminarias at WKFL Park.
Paper bags with snowflake cut-outs and sand to anchor them held candles that illuminated names of loved ones honored by family and friends. A fundraiser for hospice, people paid $20 to put names and messages on the luminarias. Some honored people who died in the past few years, like Capt. Joshua Brooks, Gary Thomas and Nancy Vait. A lot of bags said “Mom.”
The luminarias lined paths at WKFL, and people stooped downward to read names. A few tears might have been shed.
“I would encourage you to take this light home with you,” said Hospice of Homer Executive Director Holly Dramis. “Do something at home through the rest of the dark season to kind of honor both the losses and the transformations that we have. It’s an opportunity for growth that I think we’d be remiss to pass up.”
Dramis spoke of two longtime hospice volunteers who died this year, Bill Choate and Mark Vial.
“Bill Choate — lots of head nods, yeah,” Dramis said. “He’ll be remembered for so many things, but what I think of with Bill is his compassion and sense of humor. And that combination for me is just an instant like, I want to know this person.”
“And Mark Vial was another long time volunteer who died this year, and his commitment to the clients that he served was very physical,” Dramis said. “He schlepped water, propane and he just was all in to help this person continue to live how they chose to live.”
After viewing the luminarias, people gathered in a circle to share memories of loved ones. Several people spoke of losing family to addiction and drug overdoses. One woman, Pam Breckenridge, noted the connection between grief and the deep feelings people hold for those who have passed.
“You can’t have grief without love,” she said.
Light Up a Life was part of events held in December to help people deal with a paradox of the season: the joy of the holidays sometimes causes those dealing with grief to feel that grief more profoundly. Hospice also held “Into the Dark: An Open Mic on Grief and Loss,” on Sunday at Ano Kissaten Cafe.
For more information on Hospice of Homer programs, visit its website at hospiceofhomer.org.