'A Safe Place'

After the loss of a loved one, it can be hard to find joy during the holiday season.

“Some might say you’re a Scrooge or a Grinch,” Berean Baptist Senior Pastor Marcus Little shared at the First Christmas in Heaven service on Monday night. “But death does not observe a calendar and neither does our grief.”

Dozens of community members gathered at Berean Baptist to honor the lives and memories of their loved ones lost this year.

“We want to give people an opportunity to know it’s okay to feel the pain of loss, even in the holiday season,” said Dan Larson, a funeral director for Cook Funeral and Cremation Services. “We want to give the people in our community who have experienced a loss this year a safe place to gather.”

Heritage Life Story Funeral Home partnered with Cook Funeral Home and Berean Baptist for the fifth year to host the service.

“Not just the day (of Christmas), but the season can pose a challenge,” Little said.

Participants were given a memorial ornament upon arriving and then welcomed with a prayer, a song and a message of hope from Little. After the message, a video with pictures of loved ones played while everyone was invited to hang their ornament on a Christmas tree at the front of the church (that they could take home after the service).

Little then read the words of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” before it was performed. American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who tragically lost his wife in a fire and almost lost his son in the Civil War, wrote the original poem about his despair upon hearing Christmas bells during the war. The poem concludes with the bells carrying renewed hope for peace among men.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play, 
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom 
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South, 
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said; 
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; 
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

Following the services, participants gathered for a dessert reception. If you weren’t able to attend the First Christmas in Heaven service, consider going to the Blue Christmas Service at Orchard Hill Church on Sunday, December 16 at 6 p.m.


Looking for ways to remember a loved one during the holidays?
Check out our
YouTube video or read below for some other ideas.

  • Light a memorial candle. Consider their favorite color or scent when choosing a candle or decorate vellum to wrap around a votive. Share a memory or special reading. Another variation: Light a candle at mealtime in memory of your loved one.

  • Write a card or letter to the person who died. A variation of this activity would be to write a card from the deceased person using the words that are missed and loved.

  • Make a memory chain. On strips of paper, write special memories that family members have of the person who died or cherished gifts that person left with you. Loop the paper strips to create a chain.

  • Hang a special decoration in memory of the person, such as a wreath or stocking. If a stocking is used, family members can place memories inside the stocking.

  • Buy a gift that the person would have liked to receive and donate it to a social organization.

  • Make a donation to a favorite charity in your loved one’s honor.

  • Keep a place setting at the table during a special holiday meal. Decorate the place setting with a single flower, poem, card or memento.

  • Share a meal of favorite foods. Make a few of the favorite foods the person who died enjoyed and share them in a meal with family and friends, along with special memories.

  • Decorate the gravesite. Use flowers, ornaments and other decorations to adorn the grave.

  • Observe a moment of silence or prayer before the holiday meal (or at another appropriate time) in honor of the person who died.

  • Include a toast at the holiday meal in honor of the person who died and share a memory or something that you are thankful for that the person gave you.

  • Decorate a tree in memory of the person who died. Make personalized ornaments with their picture and name or buy an ornament that reminds you of the person.

  • Purchase a small, potted evergreen tree, decorate it and then plant it in the spring.

  • Make clay memory stones, pins or ornaments. Create a shape in the memory of the person.

  • Purchase a holiday or other kind of book to donate to your local library. Ask that it be labeled, “In memory of…”

  • Bake your loved ones favorite cookies. Celebrate together with friends and family or donate the cookies to a social agency.

(Provided by Faith Hospice and Emmanuel Hospice Bereavement Services. Adapted from the Dougy Center for Grieving Children, 10-12-12.)