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Links of Love

A rainbow framed my destination until it gave way to a nightfall with a near full moon. The tree was still and dark, barely visible in the faint light of nearby neon signs. This was the evening of the “Lights of Love,” a ceremony both sacred and informal, hosted by Hinds Hospice. The tree remained frosted only by moonlight until the names of all those who passed were read; candlelight joined neon to illuminate the faces and the tears of those left behind.

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Each name was read with unhurried dignity as if to allow those few words to tell their own story.

I was torn; I wanted to hear my wife’s name, her memory honored, but I didn’t know if I could bear the weight of it. When I heard it, memories showered over me. If it was possible to remember twenty-fours years simultaneously, that’s what I did. My tears could not fill the void I was feeling, but each time I am reminded of her, the void gets a little smaller.

After the last name was read, the tree was lit, and it was then I became aware of the hundreds of people surrounding me, people just like me. We were a family forged by despair, but by retelling our stories to people who really understood, our sense of abandonment shrank and our hopes grew. The more we shared, the more the holes in our souls began to feel like links in a chain; the more links, the more strength. We were healing each other.

The word hospice may be the most misunderstood word in the language. It is not another word for euthanasia as it is commonly believed, and there are still medical professionals who do not know the full implication of the word. Hospice is simply about the comfort and dignity of the patient, and supporting the family for as long as needed. While this was my first Christmas with my hospice family, Hinds Hospice had supported some of the families surrounding me for over a decade.

The evening was bittersweet, it taught me my place and purpose in the chain. And just as I was comforted by those further down the chain than I was, I will serve those who come behind me. This is yet another aspect of the word hospice, but the simplest and most eloquent definition may be this: to serve others with the gifts I’ve been given when there is a need.

And there is always a need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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