I am in the process of preparing my remarks for the annual Holy Trinity Hospice memorial commemoration at the end of the month. Holy Trinity is the only pan-Orthodox nursing home in the world, and the hospice program is expanding to include a residence hospice which will also include rooms and apartments so family members can stay with loved ones. I have been the speaker each year of the memorial, so it is a (welcome) challenge to come up with new angles on hospice and remembering our departed each year. The service is always around the same time and takes place in an area of the nursing home that is decorated for Christmas. So it is an interesting juxtaposition: friends and family in various stages of grieving in the midst of holiday cheer. The service itself includes the reading of names of hospice patients who departed this life in the past year, and a family member comes up and puts an ornament with the person’s name on a special tree.
Each year after I speak I mentally take notes on how the families act when they perform this ritual, and it seems that most who come to this service find some solemn joy in it. When we say “May his memory be eternal” in the Orthodox church, it is not just a meaningless phrase. We have memorial services, whether in church or like this one, for a reason. The same goes with the Saturday of Souls, baking liturgical bread with a list of names, and all the other things we do. The Hospice memorial program is an extra-church addition to this, and provides another avenue in the grieving process for families. We hear much in our society about “closure” when death is discussed, but the focus on closure ignores the grieving process. I plan to touch on this in my remarks and will post here accordingly as things develop.