Local residents and health care staff remembered lost loved ones during this year’s Time of Remembrance at Central Peninsula Hospital on Sunday.
Organized by a spiritual care committee, the annual event has taken place for more than 10 years and provides a healing and celebration opportunity for family members as well as staff from Central Peninsula Hospital, Heritage Place and Hospice of the Central Peninsula.
Spiritual Care Coordinator Frank Alioto led those gathered for their loved ones through an opening prayer, song, sharing of fond memories and recognition of those lost within the last year who were connected to those facilities.
Alioto, who is also a chaplain, said it is easy to focus solely on grief, so it is important to emphasize that death is an opportunity to celebrate a person’s life.
“In our society we don’t always do grief well,” Alioto said. “While we mourn we also can celebrate, and so we want to bring that back into our community, not just forget about people.”
Those in attendance placed lights representing the life they were celebrating at the front of the room, and were also given white roses at the close of the ceremony. The roses have a special meaning in the halls of the hospital, Alioto said, and are used to signify when a resident is nearing the end of their life.
“We want to be able to meet them with compassion and care and to speak into their life,” he said.
John and Sandy Stubblefield, of Soldotna, came to the remembrance ceremony to honor Sandy’s mother who died in September.
“I didn’t realize that it was still so raw,” Sandy Stubblefield said. “I just felt that I wanted to experience it.”
The ceremony provides another opportunity for those affected by loss to reach out to hospital staff if they are having difficulties coping, Alioto said.
Alioto said the Time of Remembrance is as important to some of the staff who interact with dying patients as it is to their family members. Some patients are at the hospital for a number of months, and the staff members end up forming strong bonds with them, he said.
“They really become a part of us,” Alioto said. “When people become a part of us we want to celebrate and remember. After the hospital shooting years ago, we saw not only the importance of remembering people, but it’s kind of a way to bless our community.”
John Kasukonis is a physician at Central Peninsula Hospital, and helped read off the names of people being remembered Sunday.
The ceremony was especially meaningful for him, as a doctor and as someone who had recently lost a friend to cancer, he said.
“As a doctor… we try to cure people. We try to do the best we can by them in that regard, but then as I get older I realize that we all go through the same stages of life and so, you know, involvement in this part of it is very healing,” Kasukonis said. “Kind of appreciating all the phases of life is important, and remembering is important.”