Maria Mosman points out the ornaments placed by her family to her 19-month-old grandson, Austyn Sullivan during the Celebration of Life Tree event Thursday at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. Mosman, a hospice nurse, and her family were among the people who honored loved ones with a personalized ornament.

Photo by Andy Bockelman

Maria Mosman points out the ornaments placed by her family to her 19-month-old grandson, Austyn Sullivan during the Celebration of Life Tree event Thursday at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. Mosman, a hospice nurse, and her family were among the people who honored loved ones with a personalized ornament.

VNA’s Celebration of Life Tree in Craig honors loved ones

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Sandy Beran displays the selection of holiday ornaments available for participants in the Celebration of Life Tree event, hosted Thursday by the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. Beran, a spiritual care and bereavement care coordinator with the VNA, said the event allows people to commemorate the lives of family and friends who have passed away and share their experiences with others feeling grief during the holiday season.

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For more information about the Celebration of Life Tree or other grief counseling services provided by the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, call 871-7682 or visit the building at 745 Russell St.

It’s not unusual to see an evergreen decked with shiny balls of red, blue, gold, silver and other colors during the holiday season.

While such decorations may have special meanings for people, the ornaments hanging from the boughs of the tree at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association in Craig mean a whole lot.

The VNA’s fifth annual Celebration of Life Tree event offered residents an opportunity to slow down from the fast-paced holiday fervor and take some time to remember those that they won’t be seeing in person at Christmas.

A crowd of about 20 added trimmings to the small tree in the form of bulbs bearing the names of relatives or friends who have passed away.

“It’s a nice way to remember our loved ones and to celebrate their lives and the memories that we have with them,” organizer Sandy Beran said.

Beran is a spiritual care and bereavement care coordinator for the VNA’s Hospice Services. She said the purpose behind the Celebration of Life is to deal with the grief rather than avoid the process entirely.

“So often people might try to not think about them at all, and we don’t want that,” she said.

Beran said the event can be a tough sell for people because it can be uncomfortable to discuss feelings in public.

“It can be very healing even if it’s scary at first,” she said. “People have told us how helpful and meaningful it is.”

A candlelight ceremony performed by the staff further demonstrated the significance of the get-together.

With the flame going from wick to wick, each candle represented a step in the mourning process, starting with grief. The second stood for the courage to go on, while the third signified the importance of the past.

Last but not least was the affection for each loved one on the tree, which would not burn out any time soon.

The mood of the evening ranged from lively to solemn, with some attendees talkative about why they were there and others more quiet and reflective.

“For a lot of people, it’s a private time,” Beran said. “It’s about acknowledging the memories that they have about their loved one and they’re not going to forget them.”

Jerica Sullivan attended with several members of her family, including her parents, Lance and Maria Mosman. They placed ornaments on behalf of beloved family members such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends who had recently passed away.

“I think something like this shows how people are still there and people are still praying for everybody,” she said.

Maria, a hospice nurse, assisted with the Celebration of Life ceremonies in addition to commemorating her own dearly departed.

“I think it’s special to get involved with it and be a part of the work that we do, helping people with their grief and celebrating their loved ones,” she said. “Sometimes it can be hard for the holidays.”

The Celebration of Life Tree will be on display in the lobby of the VNA throughout the holiday and is open to anyone who wants to provide their own epitaph for someone they have lost via ornaments provided by the staff.

For more information, call 871-7682.

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