20th Annual Honour a Life Celebration, Thursday, Dec. 6, at 6 p.m. at West Vancouver United Church, 2062 Esquimalt Ave., West Vancouver. Free. Info: northshorehospice.ca.
WHEN Eleanor Campbell walks, lit candle in hand, to West Vancouver's Seawalk Garden Park Thursday evening, the memory of her parents and brother-in-law will be at top of mind.
Campbell, a member of the North Shore Hospice Society board, will be among the participants in Honour A Life, an annual local celebration devoted to remembering and paying tribute to lost loved ones.
"I have been to this ceremony every year for 10 years since my first parent died," says Campbell, a West Vancouver resident. "It's rather hard to describe how important it is to me. . . . but I do find that I look forward to it and after I've been, I really have more of a sense of peace and feel better."
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the non-denominational event presented by the hospice society and North Shore Palliative and Supportive Care Program with the support of community partners.
"It brings people together in a place where it provides support and (an opportunity) to honour people at a time of the year where it might be more difficult for some people," says Campbell.
Interested community members are invited to gather at West Vancouver United Church at 6 p.m. for a reception. Attendance is open to people and families of all ages. Attendance varies from year to year, but organizers have seen up to 150 attendees in the past.
"There obviously will be new families who have just recently lost someone, and then there's the families that have been coming over the years," says Campbell. "Some of them have been at the service for the 20 years."
Following the reception, a memorial service will get underway at 7 p.m., featuring local speakers and entertainment by performers, including the Pacific Spirit Choir.
"There is a mood of celebration in the sense that you are celebrating someone's life you lost," says Campbell. "This can be an emotional experience, but there's also the feeling of connection between all the people that are there because everyone is coming together in a place where people understand that we've all lost someone. There is a great feeling of support and togetherness at the same time."
Those in attendance will then participate in a candlelit procession to the park at the bottom of 19th Street. A Memorial Tree, made possible by the District of West Vancouver, will be lit and decorated with participants' personalized memorial cards.
"It's a really special moment, it's very heartfelt," says Campbell.
The tree will remain in the garden until the New Year, allowing interested community members to revisit it.
During the evening, information will be available on North Shore grief and bereavement support programs.
The North Shore Hospice Society supports the local hospice, operated by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, by funding the new North Shore Palliative and Supportive Care Day Program, the Bill Field Community Fund, which provides grants for patients and families in need, conducts community outreach and education and undertakes fundraising initiatives.
For more information, visit northshorehospice.ca.