For those who have lost loved ones, the holiday season can be difficult.

On Dec. 12, Anderson’s Tribute Center held its 13th annual Tree of Remembrance event, co-sponsored by Providence Home Services/Providence Hospice of the Gorge. The service provides community members with the space and time to honor their loved ones and their grief during the holiday season.

For some, it’s the only somber occasion they have during the holidays to remember their loved ones. Names of the deceased are written on heart-shaped ornaments and hung on the Tree of Remembrance. Participants are invited to take their ornament home that evening; they could likewise leave it on the tree to remain in Anderson’s front window through Jan. 1, when it can be picked up.

“Grief is complicated, and it’s difficult when friends’ mindsets are in a different place,” said Anderson’s owner Jack Trumbull as he welcomed those who had gathered for the service.

“This is the time of year, particularly in our culture here in the U.S., when we rush headlong after Thanksgiving into the lights and merriment of Christmas,” Mark Thomas, chaplain at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital, told those gathered for the event. “It doesn’t leave a lot of space to grieve and feel when we’ve lost someone we love.”

That was the overall theme of the evening: Honor and feel the loss while hoping for brighter days.

“Advent is the four weeks before Christmas. It invites us into the darkness, to trust there’s something there that we can’t see clearly, when we have to feel our way through because we can’t see very well,” Thomas said. “Advent and the Christmas celebration is recognition of God showing up in one of the most unexpected ways and places.

“Feel what you feel, all the complexities of grief, in hope that that will be met with some sort of surprising joy,” he said.

“Grief is a natural reaction to losing someone; experiencing stages of grief is human and the price we pay for loving someone,” said Brian Albiston, bishop, Hood River Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He spoke of losing his mother-in-law and father, and how his family has used gratitude as a tool to heal.

“Grief can sharpen our appreciation for happiness,” Albiston said. “It’s a necessary part of life. Turn to God … Grief makes us more sensitive, compassionate and willing to sacrifice for others.”

Timothy Willis, celebrant, Anderson’s Tribute Center Celilo Chapel and Wy’east Community Church, likened memories to the lights shining behind the ornaments on the Tree of Remembrance.

“Each of you have a wonderful gift (of memory). When you find yourself flooded with emotions, share it with someone else going through it too,” he said “… Remember there are others you have a common thread with … Cherish your memories as they come.”

Willis encouraged those who had gathered to visit after the service ended, to enjoy refreshments and connect with others who share that common thread of grief.

As part of the service, the Hood River Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Children’s Choir sang to the crowd; later, Providence Hospice of the Gorge staff Trish Kreiter and Jody Weldon read names of the deceased honored on the Tree of Remembrance while Linda Taylor played piano.

Taylor and guitarist Charles Crossman provided music, and flowers were donated by Tammy’s Heights Floral.

A similar service was held at Anderson’s Tribute Center Celilo Chapel in The Dalles on Dec. 9.

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