On Tuesday, December 13, VNA Hospice NWI held its annual Tree of Remembrance Ceremony at Christ Lutheran Church. The Tree of Remembrance holds names of passed loved ones, and lets families celebrate the holidays knowing that they are with them and remembered.
“I come to this event every year because the organization helped me out when I needed it. I want to help them, and they do a great job of putting this together so that everybody has something to remember. I’ve got 13 of these ornaments, and I put them on the tree every year,” Attendee Jerry Mangel said.
The VNA Tree of Remembrance started in 2005 after members heard about the idea from a group in Chicago. What started as a small tribute has turned into something that people look forward to, and that many people annually attend.
“The first year that we started doing this we had basically a gold ribbon, and we wrote the person’s name on it. People came and we had it outside by the hospice center. They would hang their ribbons on a tree and we would then light the tree. We would have our hospice choir sing and we would have hot chocolate and cookies, and then everybody would go home. It kind of evolved from there,” Director of Development Maria Galka said.
For many, it is very difficult to celebrate the holidays when a loved one has passed. The VNA Tree of Remembrance helps to alleviate some of the pain, and shows others that they are not alone in what they are going through.
“I think attending events like this is important, especially as we go into the holiday time, because whether you have lost a person this year or you have lost a person 10 years ago, I feel like the emotions and the sadness kind of accompany the holidays,” Chaplain Ben Polhemus said.
The ceremony has become somewhat of a safe place for many people who traditionally come to it. With, COVID-19 on the uprise in 2021, attending the ceremony was difficult for many of the usual attendees. Now that it is somewhat safe, people can now celebrate their loved ones together.
“You’re really just in a safe space here. I think that’s why people like to come out. I know that due to COVID-19 we had to go virtual, but I think it’s good to come and just be together and have the shared experience,” long-time Volunteer Lynda Krueger said.
The VNA Tree of Remembrance ceremony was held both in-person and virtually for those who could not attend. The virtual live streaming of the event started in 2021 when COVID-19 numbers were greatly increasing. The staff and volunteers thought that it would be a great way to get everyone involved. Now, people from all over the country, and even the world, can attend the ceremony, remembering their deceased loved ones.
“People can either attend the ceremony here, or they can attend it virtually because we’re able to now. We had to learn how to live-stream the event because of COVID-19. People can attend from as far away as Texas, or Florida, or even England. It gives them an opportunity to remember their loved ones,” Galka said.
To learn more about the VNA Hospice of Northwest Indiana, visit vnanwi.org.