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Hospice of Santa Barbara Remembers Loved Ones with Tree Lighting Ceremony

Stars keep memories alive for survivors and friends as 150 gather in Goleta for 33rd annual Light Up A Life

The 33rd annual Light Up A Life tree lighting ceremony in Goleta was hosted by Hospice of Santa Barbara. Community members placed stars on the tree during the event to honor loved ones and friends who have died. Click to view larger
The 33rd annual Light Up A Life tree lighting ceremony in Goleta was hosted by Hospice of Santa Barbara. Community members placed stars on the tree during the event to honor loved ones and friends who have died. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Sparkling lights and stars symbolizing loved ones hang on a 15-foot tree nestled in Goleta’s Camino Real Marketplace to honor the lives and memories of those who have died. 

More than 150 community members gathered Sunday night for a free tree lighting hosted by Hospice of Santa Barbara.

Now in its 33rd year, the Light Up A Life ceremony is a fundraiser that benefits Hospice of Santa Barbara and all of its programs, such as patient care services, counseling, and children and family programs.

Approximately 250 stars personalized with the names of family members and friends who have died are displayed on the tree.

Hospice CEO David Selberg opened the ceremony and welcomed those who had gathered for it.

He recalled memories of his mother, who died during his childhood. 

“Many of us are experiencing loss and death,” he said. “Some people are here to remember those we have lost over a lifetime — in quiet moments, especially during the holidays.”

Selberg said Hospice’s services include patients as young as 13 years old.

He said Hospice staff offer a helping hand “so that people don’t have to go through some of the most difficult times in life alone.”

Santa Barbara residents Jennifer Thorsch and her husband, Charles Kaska, placed stars in the middle of the tree.

Community members affix stars to the Light Up A Life tree at Camino Real Marketplace in Goleta. Click to view larger
Community members affix stars to the Light Up A Life tree at Camino Real Marketplace in Goleta. (Hospice of Santa Barbara photo)

“Tonight, the community opens its hearts to each other,” Kaska said.

Thorsch’s star memorialized her brother, mother and father, who died in October 2015.

One star read “mom and dad” in the center and lit up next to a string of lights.

Thorsch said her father spent his final days at Serenity House in Santa Barbara, and recalled the previous years when she attended Hospice of Santa Barbara’s tree lighting ceremony with him.

“It’s a special tradition,” she said.

She said in-patient hospice housing assisted her father in a number of ways.

“The care was unbelievable,” Thorsch said. “They are angels on Earth.”

Patrice Handley, who participates in Hospice’s poetry class, delivered a poem in honor of her son.

She wrote the poem on the night of the anniversary of her son’s death, under the oak tree where his ashes were laid to rest.

Santa Barbara residents Jennifer Thorsch and her husband Charles Kaska, placed stars on the Light Up A Life tree in honor of Thorsch’s mother, father and brother. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara residents Jennifer Thorsch and her husband Charles Kaska, placed stars on the Light Up A Life tree in honor of Thorsch’s mother, father and brother. (Charles Kaska photo)

It was also Nov. 14, the rising of the biggest supermoon in almost 70 years.

“I don’t see the man in the moon at all,” Handley said to the crowd. “I just see you.”

Sunday’s event included a greeting presentation in Spanish from Hospice of Santa Barbara social worker Amy Lopez, guest appearances by K- LITE 101.7 FM hosts Catherine Remak and Gary Fruin, and a speech by the Rev. Laura Mancuso, an interfaith chaplain.

The stars are a symbol of endless love for those who have died, she said.

“Stars are present when your vision is blurry by tears,” Mancuso said. “When you see a star — remember this moment. When this special star is placed on this tree, it is adoring the name of a loved one.”

Hospice of Santa Barbara held a similar event Saturday evening in Santa Barbara.

A final tree lighting ceremony will begin at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 10 at the Seal Fountain at Linden Plaza, in front of Smart & Final Extra!, 850 Linden Ave. in Carpinteria.

Click here for more information about Hospice of Santa Barbara or to purchase a star, or call 805.563.8820. Click here to make an online donation.

Stars can be purchased online and will be available at the ceremony for a suggested donation.

Hospice of Santa Barbara provides, at no cost, professional counseling and patient-care services to people who are experiencing the impact of a serious illness or grieving the death of a loved one.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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