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Tree of Life ceremony held at St. John

  • Jeremy Vaughn of Forces and Fire and disabled Green Beret Zachary Garner take a photo with a couple deer they harvested on a Forces and Fire outing. (Photo submitted.)

By James Grob,

“We know we cannot change the past, and what is, but we can mold and shape what is to be,” Vickie Zobel said Monday. “It’s up to us, on our individual journey, to find hope.”

Zobel gave the message, about a 10-minute oration, at the Charles City Tree of Life tree-lighting service at St. John Lutheran Church, held by Hospice of North Iowa staff.

The ceremony has been held since 2009, although the tradition goes back to the 1990s.

Each year, the event receives a mix of returning visitors who wish to remember loved ones, and new visitors who have experienced a death in the past few months. Names of deceased individuals, who are submitted by the event’s attendees, are read out loud before the tree is officially lit.

Over 200 people attended Monday, and about 110 names were read in recognition of lost loved ones.

“For some, tonight is about healing, for some it’s an extremely hard evening — the hurt is so fresh,” Zobel said. “For some, it’s a remembrance of someone you’ve lost.”

Musicians Addyson Clark and Isaac Breon performed at the service, and closed the evening with a rendition of “Silent Night.” After the ceremony, ornaments off the tree were distributed to those gathered, as a gift to remind them of their loved ones lost.

“This holiday season, at this Tree of Life ceremony, the light that is in honor and memory of your loved one is a reminder to each of us that they will never, ever be gone,” Zobel said. “Their lives glow, and have a permanent mark in all the lives they have touched.”

The event is a memorial service and fundraiser for Hospice of North Iowa. There will also be tree-kkighting ceremonies this holiday season in Mason City, Osage, Lake Mills, Hampton, Clear Lake, Forest City and Iowa Falls.

Hospice of North Iowa states its mission is to provide compassionate care to all those affected by end of life. The hospice has served North Iowa since 1982.