On Tuesday evening, friends and families united at the Christ Lutheran Church in Valparaiso for the VNA of Northwest Indiana’s annual Tree of Remembrance Ceremony. The tradition is a way to honor passed loved ones during the holiday season.
The Tree of Remembrance Ceremony is one of the VNA’s longer-running traditions, with some families participating every year since it started back in 2005. Participating families each receive a personalized ornament, this year in the shape of a snowflake, that they place on one the three “Trees of Remembrance.” After a ceremony led by Reverend Craig A. Forwalter, the families collected the ornaments, taking them home as a treasured keepsake. For the VNA, it is especially important to provide the ceremony during the holidays, which can be a trying time for families missing a loved one.
“This gives those families the opportunity to bring their loved one into the holiday with them, and maybe to create a new tradition and a new way to remember them,” said Maria Galka, VNA’s Director of Development. “I actually have family members I’m honoring tonight too, so it’s heartwarming to be able to show the love that you feel and to see all of these people here caring for each other. We’re all kind of facing the same thing, a holiday without someone we love, so it’s uplifting and supportive to come together like this.”
The ceremony, while hosted by the VNA, is open to any and all members of the community looking to honor the memory of their loved ones. Other people such as Beigelbeck family were honoring individuals who are alumni of VNA’s care. The ceremony is tradition for the Beigelbecks, and they have not missed the chance to honor Mary Beigelbeck at the ceremony once over the last four years.
“This is a good time for all of us, her ‘team’, that’s what we called ourselves when she was sick. We get together and spend an evening just thinking and reflecting about her, and getting that beautiful ornament with her picture up on the tree,” said Beth Beigelbeck, Mary Beigelbeck’s daughter. “This is so important during the holidays, it just slows you down for a second and just lets us remember her and how awesome the hospice was for us during our time of need as well as all the other people that they’ve touched.”
VNA Hospice Chaplain Craig Forwalter blessed the trees, and explained how the snowflake theme so perfectly represented the loved ones honored that evening.
“What naturally came to mind this year is the idea of uniqueness,” Forwalter said. “Science teaches us that no two snowflakes are exactly the same. Every single snowflake is built on a tiny particle of dust and grows differently, and it’s kind of mind boggling that every snowflake in the history of the world has been completely unique, but that is also certainly true of the people we love and remember at the holiday season.”
For families grieving the loss of a loved one, the traditionally joyful holidays might be a trying time. The VNA’s Tree of Remembrance Ceremony allowed those families to bring their loved ones into the season in an inspiring way, and gave them a token to last a lifetime. For more information about the VNA of Northwest Indiana, visit www.vnanwi.org.