Op­ti­mal Hospice Foun­da­tion holds an­nual ‘Light Up A Life’ cer­e­mony

Porterville Recorder - - FRONT PAGE - By ALEXIS ESPINOZA ae­[email protected]­villere­corder.com

As the cold set­tled upon Wed­nes­day night, lo­cal com­mu­nity mem­bers gath­ered in front of the Roger S. Good Can­cer Cen­ter to take part in the Op­ti­mal Hospice Foun­da­tion’s ‘Light Up A Life’ event.

Clin­i­cal Man­ager for the foun­da­tion Tim Short opened the cer­e­mony with a touch­ing poem about the hol­i­day sea­son. He then ex­pressed his grat­i­tude for those who were in at­ten­dance.

“We are grate­ful that you have come to­gether with us to honor loved ones and friends who have been a spe­cial part of our lives,” said Short. “The hol­i­days are a time to cel­e­brate tra­di­tions and spend time with those who mean the most to us. How­ever, the foun­da­tion rec­og­nizes that some are no longer phys­i­cally present, and the void af­ter the loss is of­ten deep­ened dur­ing this sea­son. For this rea­son, Op­ti­mal Hospice Foun­da­tion is honored to hold this an­nual can­dle­light cer­e­mony in our com­mu­nity.”

As can­dles were passed out, Short in­tro­duced Aleyda Mon­tene­gro, who sang clas­sic Christ­mas songs in honor of the au­di­ence’s loved ones. Mon­tene­gro stood in front of the crowd with the mi­cro­phone in hand, sport­ing cozy win­ter clothes. She be­gan to sing ‘Oh, Holy Night’, and the au­di­ence fell silent as Mon­tene­gro’s voice floated through the air.

Mon­tene­gro fin­ished her song, and Short re­claimed the mi­cro­phone for a brief mo­ment to in­tro­duce Ali­cia Ga­hart, who of­fered a fam­ily mes­sage for the au­di­ence in honor of her great aunt Betty Peters. Ga­hart’s fam­ily was in­tro­duced to Op­ti­mal Hospice Foun­da­tion in 2017 when her great aunt needed their ser­vices, and Ga­hart was

right by her great aunt’s side dur­ing the last seven months of her life.

Ga­hart be­came very emo­tional dur­ing her mes­sage, shed­ding tears as she spoke.

“My aunt knew for a long time that she was not go­ing to live much longer,” said Ga­hart. “She wanted to be able to be home and in her com­fort zone, and that is where hospice staff played an im­por­tant role. From the very be­gin­ning they showed sup­port, and from the very first time they were in her home, they had hope in their eyes. They never showed any doubt, and to me that was im­por­tant be­cause she had be­come my all and I was con­stantly wor­ried. Above all, they were de­pend­able.”

Ga­hart thanked all of the staff from the Op­ti­mal Hospice Foun­da­tion for the sup­port and hard work they give to

the fam­i­lies that they ser­vice.

“You didn’t just do your job be­cause you had to, you showed com­pas­sion, and that is all one can hope for when they leave their loved ones in your care,” said Ga­hart.

Af­ter Ga­hart con­cluded her fam­ily mes­sage, Short be­gan the cer­e­mony of light­ing the can­dles. The flame from one can­dle was passed to the next, and soon all the can­dles were glow­ing and flick­er­ing in the breeze.

Var­i­ous mem­bers of the Op­ti­mal Hospice Foun­da­tion staff walked to the front and faced the au­di­ence be­fore hon­or­ing those who have been in the hospice pro­gram by read­ing their names from a list. Hon­orary vet­eran, Tony Hend­ley, led the read­ing of the names. As the list came close to the end, the foun­da­tion’s Christ­mas tree was lit to honor those whose names had been read.

Mon­tene­gro was in­vited back to the front to sing one last song. Au­di­ence mem­bers were asked to join in, and by the end of the mu­sic, most of the au­di­ence had sang ‘Silent Night’ with Mon­tene­gro.

Darcy Troutt, the foun­da­tion’s be­reave­ment co­or­di­na­tor, led the group in a read­ing to re­mem­ber those who have passed.

“At the ris­ing of the sun and its go­ing down,” led Troutt, “We re­mem­ber them.”

The group read­ing con­tin­ued, and each line was ended with “We re­mem­ber them.”

Hend­ley said a prayer over the cer­e­mony, and flow­ers were handed out to Mon­tene­gro, Ga­hart, and the man who mon­i­tored the sound sys­tems for the night.

Guests were in­vited into the can­cer cen­ter to have cook­ies and hot choco­late be­fore they event came to a close.

This an­nual event is spon­sored by the Roger S. Good Can­cer Cen­ter and the Sierra View Dis­trict Hospi­tal.

RECORDER PHOTO BY ALEXIS ESPINOZA

Can­dle flames are passed from per­son to per­son at the Op­ti­mal Hospice Foun­da­tion’s ‘Light Up A Life’ event Wed­nes­day evening.

RECORDER PHOTO BY ALEXIS ESPINOZA

The Op­ti­mal Hospice Foun­da­tion’s ‘Light Up A Life’ event fea­tured a Christ­mas tree bear­ing the names of those who have passed this past year.

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