This past week the hospice organization I volunteer with had a Tree of Life ceremony (I believe it was the 26th annual). Usually it involves an outdoor tree lighting ceremony in Rose Memorial Park followed by an indoor reception of cookies and hot beverages in a community space at a nearby church. But due to the extremely low temperatures this week they moved the ceremony inside. During the reception there are memorial walls that have been constructed with the names of loved ones who have passed away. Any member of the Missoula community can submit a friend or family member’s name for the memorial wall who has passed away at anytime, not just over the last year. This year we had around 540 names submitted.
Our annual Tree of Life gathering is a time to come together as a community and to remember and honor those who have passed away. During the ceremony we had the opportunity to each hold a lit candle and spend a few minutes in silence. I roughly counted about 150 in attendance – to see the darkened hall filled with flickering candles accompanied by the soft strumming of a local harpist was very touching.