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‘Tree of Life’ warms hearts for the holidays

‘Tree of Life’ warms hearts for the holidays

Staff Contributor

Lives may come to an end, but love is eternal. This sentiment was shared by those who attended the annual Tree of Life ceremony Monday evening at St. John Lutheran Church in Charles City. In a reassuring display of faith and reverence, attendees honored their departed loved ones with music and fellowship near the central ‘Tree of Life,’ a symbol fitting for this spiritual time of year.

The ceremony is organized each Christmas season by the Hospice of North Iowa, which also coordinates similar events across area towns. The Tree of Life ceremonies have been held for upwards of 20 years, according to organizer Autumn Hawver, a bereavement coordinator with Hospice of North Iowa. The event coincides with the holiday season for a meaningful reason, said Hawver.

As she explained, the holidays can be a fun and festive time. But when loss is felt, they can instead be a time of sad solemnity.

“During the holidays,” she said, “we feel so empty and dark without our loved ones. The Tree of Life symbolizes a sense of hope and peace, that we can move forward without our loved ones.”

Various volunteers from the Hospice of North Iowa presented throughout the program, which included a welcome, a cappella performances by Colleen Aird, Judy Barrett and Galen Roberts, a responsive reading and a message from Pastor Janet Dorenkamp. In her message, Dorenkamp encouraged those who grieve to understand that tears from loss are natural.

“They remind us of the healing process,” she said. “It’s OK to cry those tears.”

This message was reflected in the ornaments given to attendees: small tokens in the shape of a teardrop.

The names of deceased loved ones were then recited. Afterwards, the lights were dimmed and the tree illuminated, to remind the audience that “the links of life are broken, but the links of love and longing cannot break,” as stated in the program.

The evening ended with a blessing, after which guests picked up their teardrop ornaments. Hospice staff even offered hugs and help to anyone in need as well.

For more information, please contact Hospice of North Iowa at 641-428-6208.

By Mitchell Hanson

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