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Lakewood’s Lantern Lighting Celebration – One Family’s Story

Terri and Tom Gratz have attended Lakewood’s Lantern Lighting Celebration since it began in 2015. Recently they shared their story with us.

Lantern Lighting Gratz Family
Ali’s sister, Emily, releases a lantern

By Terri & Tom Gratz
We first attended Lakewood’s Lantern Lighting Celebration in 2015, just a few weeks after our daughter Ali died of kidney disease. 

The lantern lighting ceremony is a highly personal experience and how you experience it depends greatly on where you are at in the grieving process.  At the event, there are tables of people laughing and enjoying stories. At other tables, people quietly assemble their lanterns. It opens opportunities for friends and family to remember their loved one no matter what stage of the grieving process they are in.

Being among others who are grieving gives a sense of community and a feeling that we’re not alone.  Although there are groups of people, the beauty of the setting is that if we need to be by ourselves there are peaceful places around the pond to stop and reflect. 

This event is such an important part of our grieving process.  Even though the number of people attending grows each year, the evening still feels intimate. 

A special moment is when they read each name. Hearing Ali’s name called out as the sun sets is a personal and public acknowledgement of her existence and that she will never be forgotten. 

The lanterns drifting off from shore reminds us of letting go and watching the spirit leave. To see the light of the lanterns mosey and drift along the breeze is a peaceful and settling experience. 

The bagpipes’ somber song drifting over the lake punctuates the feeling that this is a remembrance of not only our daughter, but the feeling of solidarity that we have surrounded by others who have lost loved ones. 

For us, part of experiencing the event is the anticipation of it. We feel lucky that the event is held so close to September 9, the day we lost Ali. The weeks leading up to September 9 are filled with anxiety and sadness but knowing that the Lantern Lighting ceremony is coming up brings a sense of peace. We will be with family remembering and talking about Ali, which allows her light to shine on. The symbolism of her light is captured in the candle that we release and watch drift across the pond accompanied by the haunting echoes of bagpipes in the background buoys us. It’s a cathartic experience and, for us, signals a hopeful moment that it’s time to continue moving forward. 

If you would like to attend Lantern Lighting on September 16, 17 or 18, visit our event page.

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