Local Cemetery Lights Up the Holidays

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EUGENE, Ore. — Thanksgiving to New Year’s is probably the toughest stretch of time when mourning the death of a loved one, but one local cemetery is trying to ease that struggle with their annual luminary lighting.

The staff at Sunset Hills Cemetery in South Eugene says it’s important to take this time to reflect and remember, by letting a little light back into your life during the holidays.¬†They know light can be a scarce commodity this time of year, especially in a cemetery.

“Christmas is so hard, and it’s supposed to be this joyous time, but when you’ve lost somebody, it’s so hard to get through,” said Sunset Hills owner Wade Lind.

That’s why Lind spends a weekend each winter trying to restore that glow among the gloom.

“What we wanted to do was have something that families that have had a loss during the year could come back and have a little hope during the Christmas season,” said Lind.

So for the last seven years, Lind, his family and volunteers have spent a December day building a glowing garden of 4,000 luminaries among the gravestones at the South Eugene cemetery as a way to warm an often sorrowful season.

“As the sun goes down, they slowly start to glow and they glow brighter and brighter the darker it gets. And that’s kind of the neat thing. As it gets darker, as your life gets darker, the light gets brighter,” said Lind.

“It looks like stars in the sky and everything is illuminated and you see a sweep of stars coming up the hill,” said volunteer Franzi Thompson.

Thompson recently lost both her husband and daughter, but knows tonight, her heartbreak might not hurt as much as it often does.

“I don’t always lose my loved one. It’s acute at first, but then I gain back those memories and the knowledge that I never have lost them. So this is a way of honoring my daughter, my husband and all the people I’ve lost in my life, and being with people who have been through the same thing,” said Thompson.

Tonight Franzi will join with hundreds of others mourning, remembering, and honoring their loved ones who cannot physically be here to celebrate this holiday season, a hard lesson for all of us to learn, but one that eases with each flicker of the flame.

“You see the little flicker, and it just reminds you that everything isn’t constant and that life isn’t forever. Just like a candle, we light, we glow, we get brighter as our lives go on, and then, we leave,” said Lind.

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