Tree of Remembrance provides a way to remember the dead at Christmas

Brothers Jacob, above left, and Ryan Phillips, hung ornaments in memory of their grandparents and baby sister on the Tree of Remembrance at Calvary Cemetery Dec. 6. A live Nordmann fir tree is blessed and lit each year at Calvary during a special ceremony in early Advent. (Record Photos by Marnie McAllister)

For those who find themselves grieving at Christmas, Catholic Cemeteries’ Tree of Remembrance provides space for that grief, as well as an opportunity to honor those who have died.

On the mild night of Dec. 6, hundreds of people gathered in Calvary Cemetery around a 14-plus-foot Nordmann fir tree located near the front gates. The tree was blessed and illuminated — as it is every year — with colorful Christmas lights during a ceremony led by Father Gerald Bell and made festive by a children’s choir from St. Gabriel Church.

Participants wrote the names of their departed loved ones on 400 glass ornaments provided for free by Catholic Cemeteries and hung them on the tree.

Shawn Huffman, at left, wrote the names of his parents on an ornament during the event. The public is invited to hang ornaments — available for free — at Calvary throughout Advent and Christmas.

“It brings some comfort,” said Kim Phillips, who said she lost her mom, Joan Danner, Sept. 11.

“We’ve never done this,” she noted. “Dad (Ken Danner) died 27 years ago. We did an ornament for him as well as the baby we lost, who is buried here, too.”

Baby Kelsey died in 2005.

“This is really nice for the families,” she added. “We saw another family who lost someone this year. It was nice to see them and to remember to pray for them.”

Daphne Jones, who is Lutheran, attended the event in memory of her mother  who died on Nov. 18. She attended with her daughter Alyssia. Their grief was still palpable in their tears.

Shawn Huffman said he drove in Friday from Charleston, W.V., where he commutes to work, in time for the blessing and lighting. His parents died about 30 years ago, he said, but he tries never to miss a chance to remember them in a special way.

The free ornaments will be available throughout Advent and Christmas at the Catholic Cemeteries office, 1600 Newburg Road. The public is invited to stop by the office for ornaments or to bring their own.

The ornaments will remain on the tree through the feast of the Epiphany, Jan. 6. Families are welcome to stop by the cemetery office that week to retrieve their ornaments.

Father Gerald Bell hung an ornament on the Tree of Remembrance at Calvary Cemetery in honor of his family members who have died. Father Bell blessed the tree during a special service Dec. 6.

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