Until We Meet Again – Honor and Remember 2022
On Sunday, May 1, the Caring House community came together to honor and remember all those we had the privilege of caring for in their last weeks and days. It was our sixth annual Honor and Remember gathering, and we were especially excited to reunite with residents’ family and friends, volunteers, staff, supporters and members of our community this year, since the event was hosted virtually last year.
A Warm Welcome
As guests arrived, residents’ photos were projected on the screen at the front of the sanctuary at First Christian Church of Torrance, accompanied by volunteer Anne Destabelle playing the piano. Once the formal program began, Executive Director Jon Mesko provided a warm welcome before introducing Master of Ceremonies, Caring House Board Member and long-time volunteer Dan Hudson. Dan thanked everyone for joining – in person and virtually – for “this important time that we have together.”
Gratitude and Care
Dan also spoke about how the gathering was about gratitude and care for each other. “Gratitude is in so many ways why we’re here. Gratitude embodied by a hug… in a re-connection with someone who was there on one of the most important days of your life… for allowing someone to be present in that moment.”
He went on to talk about the key part of the Honor and Remember gathering – the Candle Ceremony. “We are gathered to honor and remember and we will do that,” Dan shared. “It’s built centrally around the naming of the names, many of which are reflected by your presence here. There will be candles lit as those names are read.”
The Power of Poems
Volunteer Christine Campisi, who has worked alongside Dan to plan many of the Honor and Remember gatherings, was the first to share a poem, and her intro to the reading was equally poetic. “One of the reasons we read poems at this event, as opposed to reading a narrative, is that poems reach us in our hearts.” She then read “When Great Trees Fall” by Maya Angelou.
Zoe Kors shared a reading of “Life After Death” by Laura Gilpin. Before she did, she shared, “My father spent his last five weeks at Caring House in 2018, and it was a true gift to my family. I missed his memorial celebration here that year, so I’m happy that you had me join you today.”
Stephen Pater shared a reading of “Everything Falls Away” by Parker J. Palmer. Among his remarks prior to the reading, he said, “My other half was one of the first dozen or so residents. I’ve had a chance to see the organization grow, and I’ve been to a number of these events. It brings me pride to be associated with Caring House.”
Prelude to a Song
As Anne graced the stage for the second of three times that afternoon, she played the guitar and sang “Always” by Irving Berlin, which she preceded with this powerful prelude: “This is a song I sang to sing out of this world both my parents… in a hospital setting… we didn’t have a Caring House. I am so grateful that we do.” Anne later shared a second song, “We’ll Meet Again” by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles, at the very end of the program.
Their Light Still Shines
When it was time for the Candle Ceremony, Dan invited family and friends to join him and staff member Sandra Vuoso at the front to light a candle when the resident’s name was read by Jon. He also so beautifully said, “Their light still shines through memories, and those things remembered and learned from the profound experience of the shared human spirit.”
Volunteers and staff members also helped to honor and remember the residents for whom family or friends were unable to attend. Tracy Barna, Jinny Blandford, Joanna Franco, Hannah Ramirez and Kirsten Sheridan each lit candles representing those residents and families.
Dan then asked for a moment of silence as the names of all 370 residents – all those who experienced peace at the end of life with us – displayed on the screen. Ed and Patty Long, two of the co-founders of Caring House, lit a final candle in honor of all of our residents.
A Beautiful Close
As Dan thanked everyone for attending and invited those who wished to join for refreshments, he closed the program by saying, “Indeed there is a thread that connects each and every one of us. A little different this year in that the readers each have had a loved one at Caring House. Certainly connects us, doesn’t it? Until we meet again…”
A Powerful Image
There were numerous powerful visuals at this year’s event, many of which you will see below. One of the most powerful was the list of 370 names – the first 370 residents who experienced peace at the end of life at Caring House – listed by year inside the printed program.
We have included that list, so you can see all the families whose lives you have touched. Our work truly takes a community, so thank you for helping us make a meaningful difference for these residents and families.
If you would like to help us ensure that more families have the same caring, compassionate support and peaceful, dignified end-of-life experience, you can make a donation in honor/memory of one or all of our first 370 residents here.
Watch Honor and Remember 2022
Click “Watch on Youtube” below and see the video description for clickable time markers to each part of the program. The last seven minutes of the video – beginning at 27:19 – features photos of residents from our first six years (whose families provided photos), accompanied by Anne Destabelle playing the piano prior to the start of the ceremony.
Please Note: Due to technical difficulties with the built-in camera system, only a small portion of the candle ceremony was captured. The final moment of the candle ceremony and everything that followed was captured on a mobile device.
An Afternoon in Photos
Photos by Matthew Keranen; photos can also be found on our Facebook page.