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Community comes together to remember loved ones

Representatives from Legacy Home Health and Hospice light candles symbolizing the five stages of recovering from grief, as a part of the 19th annual Light-A-Light Ceremony. Photo by Zach Kayser

Hearts were warmed Wednesday during the 19th annual Light-A-Light hospice tree lighting ceremony at the Browne Family Conference Center in Tri-County Health Care.

After taking part in a free dinner, bereaved community members who had recently lost a loved one gathered together during the Legacy Home Health and Hospice event to offer comfort and hope to one another.

The ceremony was opened with a welcome from Pastor Allen Refsland of Wadena Assembly of God Church, which was then followed by a rendition of "O Come Emmanuel" by Christie Meir and Pastor Nate Loer. Then came one of the event's featured speakers, Lin Bentrup, whose remarks focused on "Getting Through the Holidays", as the holiday season is considered to be the most difficult time of year for those grieving the loss of a love one.

The main theme of Bentrup's advice was "nobody can tell you how to grieve." She told the story of her own mourning period after her husband, Dick, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. His doctors initially gave him only several months to live, but he managed to fight for more than a year. The extra time gave Lin and Dick a special opportunity to plan for what to do after Dick would pass away.

"He showed me how to start the lawn mower and the snow blower," Bentrup said.

Bentrup also remembered a moment when she was about to sing in front of her church on Christmas, and her husband gently squeezed her hand to encourage her. The next time she sang was Palm Sunday, but by then, there was no one to squeeze her hand. In that moment, Bentrup said, she came to a realization.

"I thought I had finished grieving while he was still alive, but I had a lot more left to do," she said.

Bentrup closed her remarks by advising the bereaved to make use of their local hospice.

"Nobody wants to need a hospice, but if you do, it'll be the only place you want to be," she said.

Following Bentrup's talk was the lighting of five candles, each of which represented a different stage of recovery from mourning: grief, courage, memory, love and hope. After the candles were lit, hospice caregivers read the names of all the hospice patients who had passed away throughout the year.

Next came the night's main focus: People who had recently lost a loved one each placed a star bearing the name of the person who was deceased on a special Christmas tree at the front of the room. Some fought back tears, and others wept openly for those they had lost. After all the stars had been hung on the tree, a moment of silence was held to honor those who had passed on.

Following a prayer by Refsland, Laura Tuinstra read from a piece she had written on a vivid dream she had, in which her grandfather came to speak with her after his passing. As the lights in the room were dimmed, the tree was lit, and the names of the lost were illuminated for all to see. The ceremony concluded with attendees joining together to sing "Silent Night".