ASHLAND Luminaries now line the sidewalks in the Community Hospice Care Center gardens area, providing another way to remember a loved one throughout the holiday season.

Community Hospice held an invitation-only Holiday Memorial Service on Monday evening, recognizing patients for whom Hospice cared over the last year-plus.

“We do them annually by county every year,” said Leigh Ann Hamilton, Director of Social Services, referring to memorial services, “and we thought we’d do something nice around the holidays.”

Steve Justice, a Hospice volunteer, provided music.

Executive Director Susan Hunt welcome the crowd of an estimated 150-200 who held lit candles in remembrance of special people to whom they’ve said goodbyes within the last year or so.

Chaplain Jimm Smedley led a time of prayer. Rev. Michael McAlister, of Christ United Methodist Church, delivered a brief message. Stephanie Gifford and Teri Cornwell, Community Hospice registered nurses, sang “Silent Night” amid temperatures in the high 30s and a light drizzle.

“The weather wasn’t great, but it turned out really nice,” Hamilton said.

A reception in the care center’s great room followed.

Names of Hospice patients who died between May 1, 2018 and Oct. 31, 2019 were listed in the program distributed to everyone.

Hunt said Hospice workers had been contemplated a meaningful service such as Monday’s for some time, and she was glad to see it reach fruition.

“The gardens here is the perfect place to do something like this and it’s such a special place to so many people,” Hunt said. “It’s very important to have a memorial service and offer support. A lot of people do not know that a big part of our service is bereavement and grief support.”

Hamilton said after a patient passes away, Hospice offers family members and friends individual or group counseling free of charge. The counseling, she said, is offered to anybody in the community.

“There’s a lot of after-care that goes on,” Hamilton said. “We do a little over a year follow-up with all of our families after their loss. They get phone calls from counselors and mailings.”

Hunt said she was “pleasantly surprised” at the turnout. More than 200 RSVP’ed for the event.

Hospice plans to keep the luminaries lit every night throughout the rest of the month, Hunt said.

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