The white luminaries with red ribbons can be seen as you drive down the center of town. The candles inside each luminary flicker in the cold night.
Angel luminaries perch on the funeral home’s steps. Each luminary represents someone – a devoted mother or a watchful father, a sweet aunt or a gruff uncle, a goofy brother or a kind and caring sister, a funny son or talented daughter, a cherished neighbor, a lifelong friend.
We honor them. We remember them. We celebrate them. Although in many instances, they are no longer with us here, we love them. Still.
This is Hospice of the Panhandle’s annual Light Up a Life ceremony, set this year for Wednesday, Dec. 11, at 5:15 p.m. at Shaffer Funeral Home in Romney.
Another ceremony will be held on Sunday, Dec. 8, at 4:45 p.m. at the Hospice of the Panhandle campus in Kearneysville. A third ceremony is planned for 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6, at CNB Bank on Washington Street in Berkeley Springs.
Each luminary event also features a ceremony beforehand, with remarks and a musical performance. At the Romney ceremony, musician J.D. Pruitt will perform. Pastor Roy Knight will offer a reflection.
The ceremony also features the solemn reading of all the names of those being honored or remembered.
“I am always awed by the ceremony,” said Hospice of the Panhandle Board chair GT Schramm. “It is so moving, and such a wonderful way to always remember and honor our loved ones.”
Some family members attend the ceremony annually, using it as a way to begin a special celebration of the holiday season.
“I will never forget her,” said one mother at last year’s ceremony, referring to her young daughter who had passed two years earlier. “This is a way to do that, to keep her memory alive.”
After the ceremony at each location is completed, Hospice volunteers are on hand to guide those attending to find the luminary with their loved one’s name on it.
There is a special section for veterans to be remembered and honored. An American flag is placed next to each veteran’s luminary.
Luminaries can be purchased either before the ceremonies by calling Hospice of the Panhandle at 304-264-0406 or by going online to www.hospiceotp.org/light-up-donate-form. There are 3 levels of luminary remembrances – individual lights at $15 each, angels at $100 each and circles of light at $250 each.
The paper angels and circles of light are mailed to donors after the event. Luminaries may also be dedicated before or after each ceremony. The luminaries are lit all night at all ceremony locations.
“It is so beautiful,” said CEO Margaret Cogswell. “And just so touching to think of all these wonderful people who have touched our lives, and remain in our hearts.”
Maria Lorensen has been the development director at Hospice of the Panhandle for 11 years. Hospice of the Panhandle is a not-for-profit agency that has cared for patients and families with life-limiting illnesses in Berkeley, Morgan, Hampshire and Jefferson counties since 1980.