2022 - December - Gazette - 2nd Annual Luminaria Memorial Display

By: Jackie Naginey Hook
Thursday, December 15, 2022

 2nd Annual Luminaria Memorial Display

Last New Year’s Eve, I picked up my parents from their local retirement community and took them for a drive in search of a very special light show. As it got dark, we drove on South Atherton Street from Boalsburg towards State College. Just as we crested the hill past Harris Acres, we began to see the lights. When we got closer, the lights were everywhere. Both my parents and I exclaimed, “Wow!” We pulled into the Koch Funeral Home parking lot and stopped. More than 300 luminarias covered the lawn, one for each individual who died and was cared for by Koch in 2021.

This was sacred ground. My parents and I sat in awe of the beauty of all the candlelit bags, but mostly in reverence to our many community members who were no longer here and to their loved ones who were missing them. We sat in silence.

And we weren’t alone. Other cars came. A woman whose husband’s life was honored by one of the luminarias later sent a message, “Thank you for the beautiful end of year remembrance of our loved ones. We felt the peace and love through our tears, but it was so wonderful!” Another visitor commented, “What a beautiful and caring event!!”

This luminaria memorial display was the idea of several Koch staff people. F. Glenn Fleming, funeral director and supervisor, enthusiastically supported it and gave Marie Bartley, the office manager, the green light to make it happen.

White bags and battery-operated candles were ordered. Ceramic tiles were cut into small squares to weigh the bags down. Staff members and volunteers placed the tiles and candles in the bags in advance. As New Year’s Eve approached, the candles were turned on and the bags placed around the lawn among the trees with the lights glowing.

During 2021, Koch staff members cared for over 300 individuals. They sat with family members, heard stories of the deceased, and helped facilitate funeral and memorial services. The luminaria presentation was an outward display of this care, and was also meaningful for the Koch staff.

Funeral director Katie Monsell felt the emotion from the visual display of the many community members lost in this one year.  Funeral director and funeral service manager John “Jay” Herrington felt the importance of continuing to care for the family members who lost loved ones. Glenn thought of the grief that is ongoing in our community and the devastating effects of the pandemic year. Everyone involved was touched in some way.

On New Year’s Day the Koch staff and volunteers gathered to disassemble and pack up the bags. From the conversations, it was clear this memorial had served its purpose well. Everyone was in agreement that the display should be repeated this New Year’s Eve.

And so it will. We hope you join us this December 31st to honor all of the people we lost in 2022.  Koch staff and volunteers will again place luminarias around the lawn – this time for the more than 275 individuals and their families Koch served in 2022. Please stop by after dusk and witness this spectacle of light that represents not only the individuals’ lives that still live on in this world, but also the families who live on and need community support.

To help with that continuing community need, Koch offers various grief education and support gatherings to help. For more information, please visit the Bereavement Gatherings and Events page on the Koch Funeral Home website. To reserve your spot and receive the invitation links, email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-237-2712 or visit the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page @kochFH.

Jackie Naginey Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant and end-of-life doula.  She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College.  For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.


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