Light Up Life Helps Families With Memories of Loved Ones
Lindsey Connelly battled brain cancer for seven years before quietly slipping away in her mother's arms on what her family now thinks of as her "Independence Day," July 2, 2006.
Cancer had ravaged her 15-year-old body. She was blind, paraplegic and dependent on her mother, two sisters and brother for all of her care, but her mind and spirit were strong, almost to the very end.
It's the knowledge of Lindsey's tremendous will that sustains her mother, Chrisy. So does the support the family received from FirstHealth Hospice and Palliative Care.
"Hospice helped make her passing so peaceful," Chrisy says. "It was the most spiritual moment of my life in a very bittersweet way, and their presence in our home helped it to be that way. I was very thankful that I had Lindsey in my arms when she passed away."
The Connellys, who live in Seven Lakes, are grateful for the support they received from FirstHealth Hospice, which is supported by the community through the annual Light Up a Life program. Families from throughout the FirstHealth Hospice service area memorialize or honor loved ones in the holiday event that symbolizes and supports Hospice's work.
The 2008 Light Up a Life tree-lighting program will be held at 5 p.m. this Thursday at the FirstHealth Hospice and Palliative Care office on Aviemore Road in Pinehurst. Each of the lights on each tree will represent a life to be remembered or honored.
Keith McDaniel, a bereavement counselor at FirstHealth Hospice and Palliative Care's Grief Resource and Counseling Center, began assisting the Connelly family shortly after Lindsey's death and still sees Chrisy for an occasional "tuneup" as she calls it. He says it's important to remember loved ones who have died, and Light Up a Life provides an opportunity to do just that.
"I think Light Up a Life gives people a way to remember their loved one at the holidays," he says. "It's something concrete that they can do, and the lights are a visual reminder of the loved one throughout the holidays. We have some people who come every year, because it helps them start the holiday season in a special way."
Tina Markoff, assistant director of Hospice Family Support Services, agrees.
"I've had families tell me they drive by many times during the season to see all the trees lit," she says.
The Connelly family has lots of memories, many of them painful, but many more tempered by the knowledge of Lindsey's courage in the shadow of incredible adversity and odds.
"She was unique in that she never lost her joy for living," her mother says. "It was with dignity and grace that she ended up teaching everyone around her."
Even though she worried about keeping Lindsey comfortable during the last weeks of her life, Chrisy wanted her daughter to be at home when she died. Hospice's help not only allowed Lindsey to be at home, but also prepared her mother and the rest of the family for letting her go. Grief counseling, says Chrisy, also helped the family "spiritually connect and have her in our lives."
"Having a death like that is so isolating, but Hospice is so familiar with the grief process," she says. "It's the one place where you don't feel alone or isolated. You learn how to have a person who is physically gone still be a part of your life."
The public is invited to attend the Light Up a Life tree-lighting ceremony. Anyone who would like to dedicate a light in memory or in honor of a loved one can call the FirstHealth Hospice Foundation at 695-7500.
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