It was a night of remembering those loved and lost at Sierra Hospice’s 31st annual Memorial Tree Lighting ceremony, held Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Sierra Hospice building near Seneca Hospital in Chester.
The early evening event began with Sierra Hospice coordinator Shirley Canalia and assistant coordinator Lisa Wong welcoming those in attendance, who braved the cold night air wrapped in multiple layers, caps and warm mittens.
The opening ceremony included candle lighting and the naming of those who have passed during the year, including patients who were assisted in their final days through hospice care.
Lisa Wong and Canalia performed the reading, consisting of nearly 400 names.
A number of family members and friends had purchased an ornament to hang on the tree in remembrance of a loved one now deceased, as well as the names of military personnel who have been lost serving our nation.
The Chester High School Chorus sang several tunes comprising seasonal music to the crowd of around two-dozen.
Performing at the event was the Lake Almanor Hand Bells, directed by Meredith Rosendahl, and included Meredith Rosendahl, Suzanne McDonald, Lowell Rosendahl, and Bill Howe.
Afterward, the Memorial Tree was lit with Christmas lights, and a moment of silence ensued “to remember family and friends who are no longer with us,” Canalia said.
The event serves as the culmination of Sierra Hospice’s yearly fundraising activities to help cover the costs of patient care.
Wong said that people purchase tree ornaments in memory of their loved ones, as a way “to raise funds to help hospice in its mission to provide end-of-life care” and support to patients and their families.
She said people could buy a “perpetual” white dove ornament for $100, which is bought just once and is placed on the tree every year with the name of a loved one on it.
In addition, Canalia said, “We also have “annuals,” a clear star that costs $10 per ornament, or three ornaments for $25, and are available by calling the Sierra Hospice office at 530-258-3412.
People can also buy ornaments just because they want to support the organization, she noted, regardless of whether or not they know someone in the hospice program.
“It’s a perfect way to honor and cherish those who are no longer with us during the holiday season,” said Canalia, adding that the memorial tree remains lit 24/7 until the New Year.
There was an indoor reception following the somber observance, with refreshments and homemade snacks, hot beverages like coffee, hot chocolate and tea, which provided a space for those in attendance to offer support and fellowship.