11th annual Remembrance Trees event set for Friday
— Valda Rotolo’s grandparents, Bill and Hazel Rottluff, died within two months of each other in 1981. Some 35 years later, Rotolo still misses them — even more so during the holiday season, a time when family gathers.
For more than two decades, Rotolo experienced a period of underlying sadness that started right around Thanksgiving and stretched through New Year’s Day because of the loss of her grandparents.
But in 2005, when the Union Hospital Foundation and other Cecil County agencies and organizations started the Remembrance Trees event, Valda adopted a more positive approach to missing her grandparents.
Every year, Rotolo places two gold ribbons in remembrance of her grandparents on one of two Christmas trees, which are called Remembrance Trees, during the community event, which includes a ceremony, light refreshments and music.
“I celebrate them. It’s therapeutic being around others who are celebrating loved ones they are missing, too. You don’t feel so alone in your loss,” said Rotolo, who is the victim/witness coordinator for the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office, one of the event sponsors. “It addresses the loss in a positive way, at the start of the holiday season, so the sadness doesn’t creep up on you.”
Rotolo had experienced the way sadness can sneak up on a person who is missing departed loved ones during the holiday season,
she said. Rotolo dealt with that for some 24 years, before she took part in the first Remembrance Trees event.
“I got a little bit of depression when the holiday season was approaching because the grief and loss is so much heavier. It would just creep up on me and stay,” Rotolo said. “This event is so beneficial because it allows people to address their losses upfront, together, in such a positive way. It truly is a celebration of their lives.”
Rotolo invites anyone missing departed loved ones to participate in this year’s Remembrance Trees event, which will be held on Dec. 2 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 229 E. Main St. in Elkton, the former office of the Chesapeake Hospice Foundation. A brief ceremony will be held at 12:45 p.m.
For people who will be unable to attend but still want to celebrate their departed loved one, ribbons can be picked up ahead of time and brought back with the loved ones’ names written on them, so they can be placed on the trees.
Those wishing to do so can call Rotolo at 410-9965342 or Gabrielle Oldham at 410-620-3702.
Those who can attend will be given ribbons on which they can write the names of their departed loved ones and place them on the Remembrance Trees. Gold ribbons will be available for adults to celebrate their departed loved ones. White ribbons will be available for children and adolescents to write the names of their departed loved ones before placing them on a separate tree.
Valda Rotolo, victim/witness coordinator for the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office (back to camera), and Elkton-area resident Sharon Foster embrace during last year’s Remembrance Trees ceremony.