LAURINBURG — Each at various stages in their grief, hundreds gathered at Northview Harvest Ministries on Thursday to reflect on the loss of a loved one.
Scotland Regional Hospice invited the friends and families of those who died in its care between November 2014 and October 2015 to an annual memorial service to light a candle in memory of those lost. Hospice chaplain Robbin Mundy described the evening as a “celebration of life, love, and hope.”
Sheriff Ralph Kersey and a trio of officers performed “It Is Well With My Soul” before Hospice medical director Valeriana Esteves-Jute led the assembly in a pledge to remember, in all circumstances from “the summer suns and field of brightness” to “the winter chill and blankets of whiteness.”
More than 300 names and photographs were projected onto the wall of the Northview sanctuary as each name was pronounced by Hospice staff, cueing each person’s family to come forward and light a candle.
“The first thing that comes to my mind is it’s a sad occasion, but it’s a happy occasion,” said Hospice nurse Patty Williams. “It’s sad for them because it’s bringing back all these memories, but it’s good to see all these people again. We’ve taken care of their family members so it’s just like seeing your family again.”
“This is our way of showing our appreciation for them letting us be a part of their lives,” added CNA Iris Smith.
Whether they lost a loved one last month or late last year, each person who remembered a departed mother, father, sibling, grandparent, or friend did so at a different point on the same journey.
Charles Wentz, director of the Scotland Family Counseling Center and a Presbyterian elder, recalled his sister’s death in 1992 under Hospice care.
“Here I am, 23 years later, and I can remember the smallest of details of those last days — you can probably remember the smallest of details,” Wentz said. “It took me quite a few months to get back to a good place. Grief is like that.”
The void left by the loss of a loved one, Wentz said, can only be filled by a conscious choice to remember them through a lens of celebration and with honor of their wishes that those they leave behind live their lives to the fullest.
“I understand and I view grief as a normal and natural human response to loss. At some point in our grieving process we become overwhelmed and we realize that our grief is controlling our life. It’s usually then that we make a decision to change.”
Wentz quoted Fannie Gilmore, a retired Laurinburg educator who died in August at the age of 90. Mentally well-prepared for the end of her life, Gilmore described her experience of pulling together the threads of her life as “a joyous, joyous time.”
“I am comfortable, I have peace,” Wentz read from Gilmore’s testimony. “It’s just been a wonderful rebirth, revival, reconnection. Everything seems like it’s just laid out, as if God is saying: I am with you, no matter what.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.