Families share memories, grief at Christmas Remembrance Service
HOLSOPPLE -- For thousands of people across our area, the holiday season is a time for celebration, but for many, it's also a sad reminder of loved ones lost in the past year.
That's why the Hoffman Funeral Home & Cremation Service hosted its 10th annual Christmas Remembrance Service in Somerset County Monday night.
The organizers say it's a time to bring people together, to help them cope a little better during the holidays. There were a lot of tears, but many say there was a sense of comfort throughout the church as well.
Past the wreaths and Christmas decorations sat dozens of people in the Maple Spring Church of the Brethren.
But they were not exactly there to celebrate the holiday season.
"We all sit here with one thing in common, and that is to pay tribute and to remember loved ones who have passed in the last year," said social worker Penny Hoffman.
It's the 10th annual “Forever in our Hearts” Christmas Remembrance Service.
"As we gather this evening, may you bless us with these warm, wonderful memories," said the Rev. Denise Todero.
Bonnie Lape is remembering her mother, Mary Jane Lape, who died a year ago, and her father Lester who died two years before that.
"And this service means so much because we want to keep her memory alive,” Lape said. “They have been so important in our lives and meant so much to my husband and I."
Each family shined a light on their loved ones, as each name was read aloud.
There was a candle for Annie Matkoskey's sister and Nick Matkoskey's dad.
"They kind of give you a comfort of how to get through the holidays and it makes it a little easier," Matkoskey said.
"Give yourself permission to cut back on holiday decorations, preparations and gift giving,” Hoffman said.
“If celebrating doesn't feel right, some people prefer to volunteer."
Chris Hoffman owns Hoffman Funeral Home and Cremation Services.
He's the one who organizes this event every year.
"You know, after the funeral's over, their pain doesn't go away,” Chris Hoffman said. “It continues. And especially those first holidays and birthdays, it can be very painful."
"Last Christmas, she spent the Christmas with us, and (she’s) gone this year," Matkoskey said, fighting back tears.
Through all the tears, the grief is shared among the crowd, but so are the memories and the positive thoughts.
"They're in heaven,” Lape said. “They're with Jesus and they're celebrating, so we need to keep on going and someday we'll see them."
Each family went home with the candle they lit, along with a booklet with additional tips on grief and the holiday season.