As the lights flicker in the night sky and the candlelight illuminates the faces in a sea of dancing shadows, it doesn’t take much to realize each soul standing around the Tree of Love is deep in private thought.

People tend to reflect on the passing life in many different ways. To some, it seems like a crushing blow, almost unsurmountable as how to move forward. To others, it takes on a relief that the pain is finally over and loved ones have moved on to far better place.

Whatever the internal process, the Hospice Friends hopes to carry a message of hope and sharing this holiday season with the 24th annual Tree of Love Gatherings of Remembrance at 6 p.m. Friday at the Ellensburg Public Library-Rotary Plaza, and Tuesday at the Cle Elum Community Center.

Hospice Friends, which started in 2009, provides a volunteer to offer family members and other caregivers support, along with free durable medical supplies for in-home care and loans of medical equipment.

Executive director of the nonprofit Matt Grannan said his group provides a service to the community and individuals during a time when people tend to reflect.

“This is a significant, because it’s a gathering place for people to come and be with other people. A lot of times people that have lost someone don’t want to socialize and be around others. But what we’re doing is healthy, it’s good,” Grannan said. “If you can gather those people, it helps with the healing process.

“We have people that have been coming to the celebration for 20 years. It’s amazing to see the friendships developed over the years and how they’ve come together to celebrate a life well lived than dwell on the negative.”

The Ellensburg women’s choir will provide musical entertainment. There will also be a slide presentation by the Central Washington University ROTC, outlining what services Hospice Friends provides.

But mostly, it’s a place to gather and just be. Sometimes the best conversations are the ones that happen in silence, Grannan said, knowing the collective spirit of the gathering is connected through a certain kinship of community.

“It’s not a religious gathering at all,” Grannan said. “It’s an opportunity to be supportive or not be alone. Each light on the tree symbolizes someone that is no longer with us.

“It gives us all an opportunity to acknowledge that life. Everybody’s loss is different, but everybody that has lost somebody understands what that feels like. This is a opportunity to sit down with a friend or neighbor, or maybe somebody they don’t even know and share that story.”

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