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