The holidays should be a time for families and loved ones to be together. For some, the loss of a family member or a dear friend can make the holidays a difficult time.
Sue Heckart on behalf of the Heckart Family Foundation hosted an event Sunday afternoon once again to offer support and help to those who have lost a loved one during the past year.
“Originally we lighted the blue spruce tree outside the funeral home in memory of loved ones who had passed away,” Heckart said. “We had to remove the tree seven years ago and that is when we started the wreath remembrance dedication service.
“It is a way to honor and allow the memories of those loved ones to live on while helping the organizations and causes they supported,” Heckart added.
Each family who chose the Heckart Funeral Home and Cremation Service to provide for their family member was given a brass dove ornament, engraved with the name and dates of the birth and death of their loved one. The family members are then asked to place the ornament on the wreath in memory of their loved one.
Heckart said during the ceremony five candles are lit representing the grief, courage, memory, love and hope of the departed.
“Each one of the candles has a special significance,” Heckart said. “The candle of hope is the last lit and it reminds us of the love and memories that are ours forever.
“The day is full of memories for me as well as I think of my mother and father, Dale and Stella Heckart, and the difference they made in my life and the lives of others,” Heckart told those gathered.
Heckart said after the event that this was the largest audience in the 17 years she had been hosting the ceremony.
This year, Heckart donated $26,000 to 83 churches and charitable organizations in remembrance of a loved one who died in the last year. This is the 17th year Heckart has been making the donations.
The charities and churches selected to receive funds are ones chosen by the families themselves.
“These are the charities the individual has requested a memorial has been made to upon their death,” Heckart said prior to the ceremony. “If an individual does not have a specific fund then we will chose favorite causes to support throughout the community.
“After the first of the year, the families may pick up the doves,” Heckart said. “If they are unable to do so, we send it to the family on the first anniversary of their loved one’s passing.”
Many in attendance were moved to tears during the ceremony as candles were lit in remembrance as well.
Guests were also brought to tears with Richard DeFord’s rendition of “O Holy Night” at the conclusion of the event. DeFord has sung at many of the ceremonies and was a favorite of Stella Heckart.
“My mother had such a love of music,” Heckart said. “’O Holy Night’ was one of her favorite Christmas hymns and so we make it a part of each remembrance.
“We started this after mother said she wanted to see the tree lit one more time, before we had to remove it,” Heckart said. “Even though the tree is no longer standing, a part of it lives on, because we used some of the lumber from it to make the sign and the benches that are outside the funeral home.”
“I just wanted to say thank you,” Glenn Sparks, Pastor at First Baptist Church, said. “I have never experienced anything like this, but thank you on behalf of all of us.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484