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Lakewood’s Annual Lantern Lighting Celebration a welcoming, reflective and joyful event.

Photo by Bre McGee for Uncommon Collaborative.

The first time Barb Heinz attended Lakewood’s Lantern Lighting Celebration she watched the lanterns float across Lakewood’s serene pond at sunset and thought how much her husband Mark would have enjoyed seeing the beauty of this annual celebration.   

Barb’s husband Mark passed away in August of 2016, but it wasn’t until 2017 that Barb heard about the event where Lakewood guests decorate lantern sleeves to honor and remember loved ones. As the sun sets, lanterns carrying a small light are placed in Jo Pond, cherished names are read aloud, and it’s all set to the stirring music of a bagpipe. 

The first year Barb brought along a friend and a young neighbor boy who had grown close to her husband before his death. “I was taken aback by how welcoming and joyful the Lantern Lighting Celebration was. The music and food trucks made the evening festive, but most importantly there was a sense of community. We were all gathered to remember and reflect on those we’d loved and lost.”  

At the Lantern Lighting Celebration, Lakewood provides myriad supplies, and everyone is invited to bring special items from home such as homemade decorations and copies of photos. It’s important to bring copies of photos because lanterns are not returned after the event.   

Barb brought photos of many special days, including Halloween, which was Mark’s favorite holiday. “He had a lot of sayings too,” Barb explained. “I wrote some out on the lantern sleeve, winding them around the pictures.” Marshall, Barb’s young friend, contributed stickers for the lantern’s decoration. 

Marshall had never lost a loved one, so Barb was moved to see his reaction to the night. “The evening put him so at ease as we celebrated and remembered Mark. It was a very positive experience for him.”  

“Working at the tables made it easy to meet other people,” Barb continued. “Within just a few minutes of meeting we were all sharing stories about our loved ones. People told me their stories and invited me to talk about Mark.” Barb shared her story about how she chose Mark’s spot at Lakewood. “Mark was a paraplegic and he told me he wanted a spot that he would have been able to see from his wheelchair.” Barb found the perfect place in Lakewood’s northwest section near the lake.  

While some people enjoy meeting other attendees, there are also spots for those who prefer more privacy and quiet. 

The ceremony begins at sunset with the bagpipes playing and names being read aloud. “It was such an emotional moment, beautiful and sad at the same time,” Barb said. “As it got darker, and the lit lanterns filled the lake it was stunning. Mark would have loved seeing the lanterns floating on the lake.” 

Barb has attended Lantern Lighting with many different friends. Last year she attended with the family of a man that she had worked for as a caretaker. “It was such a nice way to celebrate his life.”    

Barb says coming to Lakewood for the Lantern Lighting Celebration actually made her more comfortable visiting Lakewood throughout the year. “The first time I came to Lantern Lighting it felt so welcoming I realized I didn’t need a special occasion to visit Lakewood. Now I come by myself or with friends to see Mark or to take a walk. I always feel at ease here.” Barb attends other Lakewood events as well, including a favorite, Lakewood’s historic trolley tour.  

She’s also impressed with Lakewood’s staff, especially the grounds crew. When Barb noticed some overgrowth near Mark’s memorial, she mentioned it to the office who promptly took care of cleaning the area up. 

Barb looks forward to attending Lakewood’s upcoming Annual Lantern Lighting Celebration on Friday, September 22 and Saturday, September 23. Tickets sales are open now. 

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