Tree of Life lit to honor loved ones

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Fri., Nov. 15, 2013
Mykaela Jensen of Tolland holds a candle as she waits for the lighting of the 'Tree of Life' in Vernon on Nov. 14. Photos by Steve Smith.
Mykaela Jensen of Tolland holds a candle as she waits for the lighting of the 'Tree of Life' in Vernon on Nov. 14. Photos by Steve Smith.

A different sort of tree has been lit up for the last six years on the early edge of the holiday season, at the intersection of Routes 83 and 30 in Vernon. Staff at the Visiting Nurses Health Services of Connecticut, Inc., came up with an idea in 2008 of a way families of former hospice patients could remember their loved ones and mark the holiday season.

More than 150 people came to the non-denominational Tree of Life lighting ceremony on Nov. 14. Many had smiles on their faces, and some shed tears and talked about the people who have passed, but everyone's faces lit up when the white lights covering the tree were illuminated.

"Every year we gather here to remember our family and friends who have passed before us," said Todd Rose, CEO and president of VNHSC. "As the holiday season arrives, it is a great time to remember those that we love in fondness, and the light that they brought into our lives. Perhaps most importantly, our tree of light helps us to remember that their love and light continues to shine within each of us today, and it will always shine in us forever."

"Tonight is always a special night," said Dianne Welch, director of Hospice and Pallative Care. "It's really quite special and quite endearing. We light candles and wait with kind of an anticipation for this tree to light up. It's not just a tree of lights, it's a tree of remembrance and honor."

Names of the departed were also on a remembrance board, next to the tree.

VNHSC Communications Director Pat Callahan said the event has been more popular than expected, and that while invitations are sent to families who lose someone, many people have come since the first year. "I don't know what it is about it," she said. "People take pictures of the name of their loved one. It's a really simple affair, but it really means a lot to the people who go."

For more information, visit www.vnhsc.org.


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