Northwest NEWS

December 7, 1998

Front Page

Area hospices 'Light Up a Life'

Light Up a Life

Community members are invited to celebrate Light Up a Life on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. at the Evergreen Medical Center with the lighting of the tree in memory of loved ones.
Photo by Christine Allen.

by Deborah Stone

   The holidays can often be a less than merry time for many people. Loss of a loved one is felt more keenly as families gather for the season's festivities.

   During the month of December, hospices in the Puget Sound area will make the holidays a little easier for people by hosting Light Up A Life ceremonies at various locations from Everett to Tacoma.

   "Holidays are built on memories and can be very difficult for many people after the death of a loved one," explains Christine Allen of Evergreen Hospice, one of the event's organizers. "Light Up a Life gives people a chance to remember their loved ones in a positive way with other people who understand their grief. It's an outlet for feelings we often try unsuccessfully to suppress during this time of year."

   The Light Up a Life programs, which have become an annual event over the past several years, include a memorial tree lighting ceremony, music, shared stories, and inspirational readings.

   The events also provide people with an opportunity to support hospice care by making a memorial gift to light a symbolic light on the tree, or by buying a memorial ornament.

   Hospices provide care to terminally ill patients and their families, helping them live each day to the fullest, free from pain and with the support necessary to complete life as they choose. This year, Puget Sound area hospices assisted more than 13,000 terminally ill patients and their families.

   Bill Gowan of Woodinville had first-hand experience with hospices when his father-in-law, Robert Henrickson, spent his final days at Evergreen's Hospice in Kirkland last July.

   Gowan, a past president of Rotary Club, has helped raise money for hospices over the years through his service organization. He never imagined however that he would be involved with one on a personal basis.

   "My father-in-law was dying of a liver condition and had fallen into a coma while at Evergreen Hospital," explains Gowan. "It had become emotionally very difficult for my wife Teresa to visit her father in the hospital environment. Evergreen's Hospice was a viable alternative which we readily accepted. Having Bob there made such a difference to our family. The staff and volunteers at the Hospice were amazing. They are such supportive and giving people, and their view of death is so different than at a hospital. A hospital's goal is to heal, and so death is viewed as a failure. At a hospice, the goal is to complete life's journey. Death is a passage and the ending of a voyage which represents successful completion of the goal. The hospice experience is not one of despair. It's a time of rekindling and celebration of life."

   For the Gowan family, Bob's final days were a gentle time, filled with music and warmth among people who cared deeply about him.

   Hospice philosophy is holistic and embraces the family in all its services. "It is a comfort to know that there are hospices to help make the process of dying easier for patients and their families," says Gowan.

   The upcoming holiday season will definitely evoke memories for the Gowan family and the absence of their loved one will hurt, but Gowan himself feels that the recollection of these memories are necessary.

   He says, "My wife, my children, and I will continue talking about Bob because it's so important to share our thoughts and keep the memories alive. We plan to attend the Light Up a Life ceremony at Evergreen as a way to refocus on the experience and come together with kindred folk who share a loss."

   Light Up a Life events are free and open to the public. Evergreen Hospice will hold its ceremony December 10 at 6 p.m. at Evergreen Medical Center. For more information, call Christine Allen at 425-899-1911.

Celebrating life and managing grief: 10 tips for surviving the holidays

by members of the Puget Sound Regional Light Up a Life Program