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Service honors loved ones, celebrates joy of the season

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St. Anthony Regional Hospice’s annual Tree of Love service gave participants an opportunity to remember loved ones while also looking forward to the joy of the holiday season.

A large turnout filled the St. Anthony Regional Hospital atrium for the service led by Angelo Luis, hospice chaplain, and Carmen Schimmer, hospice volunteers and bereavement coordinator, with music by pianist Jake Gute. The service this year featured the theme “Good News of Great Joy.”

Luis concluded with this message: “The people that will be celebrating (the holidays) with you will make a great difference, because the people that left this world made a difference, too. It is why you and others are here.

“We are in a way thanking the Lord for bringing him or her into our lives by hanging your ornaments. In another way, he or she was a gift — a gift that the Lord made especially for you. So this Christmas and Thanksgiving, let it be merry and happy, surrounded by your family and friends.”

Schimmer, who organized the service, said, “We know that during the holidays, after you’ve lost someone, it’s hard. It’s our hope that people find joy even amid their sadness. The reason they’re sad is because they had somebody to love, and that’s a gift in itself.”

She added, “It’s OK to remember the loved ones you’ve lost, and they would want us to keep appreciating the gifts we have here on earth and be thankful that they’re in a better place.”

During the service, hospice staff recited names of approximately 590 people, including those honored with the ornament purchases plus the 75 hospice patients who lost their lives over the last year.

This year’s commemorative Tree of Love ornament reflects the theme of joy. It’s zinc alloy with antique-silver finish, spelling out “Joy” with a wreath and manger in the center.

People attending the service were given the opportunity to place ornaments they purchased on one of the three trees in the atrium. Ornaments were inscribed with names of fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, grandparents, other family or friends.

Those at the service represented a wide span of ages.

“I love watching the children hang ornaments,” Schimmer said afterward. “I feel it’s a good way for families to keep loved ones’ memories alive by including children in the service — remind them who they’re hanging an ornament for, whether it be a grandpa an uncle, a dad or whoever. I just think that’s a really neat way to include a child and keep a loved one’s memory alive.”

Prior to the service, nearly 650 ornaments had been purchased, running far ahead of the sales trend of previous years. Schimmer said nearly 950 to 1,000 ornaments are sold each year. A donation of $5 per ornament is suggested. Hospice uses proceeds for care of patients and support of their families. Up to two names of people living or deceased can be inscribed on each ornament.

Order forms for ornaments are available at St. Anthony Regional Hospice office, 318 S. Maple St., Suite 2, or the hospital coffee and gift shop.

For more information, contact St. Anthony Regional Hospice at 712-794-5279 or 712-794-5392.

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