Edna Shepherd of Naperville lost her husband Graham, 87, this year on May 28.
She said she feels some comfort in knowing she’s not alone.
“I think it helps me to come out and be with others and share my feelings,” Shepherd said. “To see others who are at the same point I am helps all of us get through this.”
Remembering lost loved ones was the focus at the Beidelman-Kunsch Funeral Home in Naperville Sunday as dozens of people braved the early winter snow and came out to witness the funeral home’s 19th annual “Tree of Remembrance” event, which began after 1 p.m.
Since Thanksgiving, those wishing to remember a lost friend or family member have been dropping off personalized doves made of paper and outlined in gold which were then hung on the remembrance tree. A multi-denominational service led by the Rev. Scott Mitchell of the Samaritan Interfaith Counseling Center in Naperville was held, followed by a candle lighting, readings, and some time for fellowship and refreshments.
Funeral home owner John Kunsch said the event seldom starts on time as folks continue to drop off last minute doves to be placed on the tree.
“We usually average about 150 of these a year, but the number of doves doesn’t matter at all,” Kunsch said. “We have a number of tables placed inside the door that allow a ‘speed sign in’ for people coming at the last minute. Every year, this is an important part of the services we offer, and it’s an event that people are very grateful for afterwards.”
Kunsch said the Christmas season offers unique challenges for those grieving the loss of a loved one, “since our society says we’re supposed to be happy this time of year.”
“This is supposed to be a happy time of year, but there are people with memories regarding their loved ones who don’t feel the same way,” he said. “The thing is, they are not alone, and this event helps them realize that.”
Mitchell said he has been delivering the message for a number of years at the Tree of Remembrance event and that he tries to focus on a number of things.
“Some of the people here have experienced a loss a few weeks or months ago, while there are others that come here year in and year out,” he said. “The message I try to give is one of hope through stories, which are a powerful part of our lives. We experience a range of emotions from laughter to sadness and they are all appropriate.”
Mitchell also spoke of reaching out to support family and friends, and that the common thread among those who came Sunday “was loss, and living afterwards with strength.”
Peter and Janet Meiminger of Romeoville came to remember their son, who died this past year at the age of 24. Janet said she is working to gain closure on the loss, which occurred in January of this year.
“It’s been nearly a year and I think I’m getting better as far as being able to cope,” she said. “When you are with other people who have suffered a loss, it sort of divides the grief.”
Faye Pletcher of Naperville was one of the first to arrive Sunday and she said she came to remember her husband Joe. The couple was married 58 years.
“I wrote on his dove, ‘Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; love leaves a memory no one can steal’ and I sort of borrowed that from a headstone I looked up that is in Ireland,” Pletcher said. “I think having a service like this is a wonderful idea.”
Naperville resident Helene Rehs said she lost her 78-year-old sister Mary Rudnick this past February and that the thing she misses most is her voice.
“My sister would call me at least eight times a day,” she said. “I spoke to her when I got up in the morning and she put me to bed at night. I really would like to hear that voice again.”