“The staff presented the service with great love and dignity. … I'm so glad I came and got to light a candle and remember all the wonderful things about my nanny.”
The holidays can be tough for some families, especially after the loss of a loved one. That's why one local business went above and beyond to help its patrons find healing for the holidays.
Just ahead of Christmas and New Year's, nearly 300 people gathered for Heritage Funeral Home's fourth annual Candlelight Memorial Service.
The ceremony, held for those who have needed the parlor's services over the past year, is meant to remind families that they are not alone as they prepare to spend the holiday season without their late loved one for the first time.
"The whole purpose of the evening is, No. 1, just to let them know that we're still thinking of them," said Curtis Ottinger, managing partner at Heritage Funeral Home. No. 2, he added, is to open up opportunities for fellowship with others who understand. "You're in a room with people who have felt that loss and are going through the grief journey just like you are."
During the ceremony, surviving family members made their way to the funeral home's altar when their loved one's name was called. With photos of their departed spouse, parent, sibling or child displayed on an overhead screen, each group lit a candle in honor of their loved one, taking as much time as they needed to pay their respects. The family was then presented with a hand-blown glass angel ornament bearing the individual's name.
"The staff presented the service with great love and dignity," attendee Lauren Conner wrote in a letter to event organizers. " It brought such comfort and healing to my heart. I'm so glad I came and got to light a candle and remember all the wonderful things about my nanny."
This year's service was especially meaningful for Ottinger, who experienced his fair share of loss over the past year. Late last December, his father, Billy E., who worked alongside him at the funeral home for 16 years, passed away at age 85, and just this October, Ottinger's grandchild was also laid to rest before taking her first breath.
His daughter and son-in-law attended to honor their lost child, and just before concluding the service, Ottinger called his father's name and paid tribute alongside his three brothers.
"It was bittersweet," he said, "but it was beautiful. It truly was."
Email Myron Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org