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Light Up a Life: Honoring Loved Ones and Supporting End of Life & Palliative Care in Cook County

Dec 06, 2023 09:49AM ● By Content Editor

Photo: Laura Durenberger-Grunow

By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - November 29, 2023

As the holiday season approaches, many families gather to celebrate cherished memories and honor loved ones who have passed away. For those who have lost loved ones, this time of year can also be a time of reflection and grief. Light Up a Life, an annual event observed worldwide by end-of-life/palliative care organizations, offers a unique opportunity to remember loved ones while supporting the important work of this type of care.

A Global Tradition of Remembrance

Light Up a Life ceremonies typically take place during the first weeks of December, coinciding with the beginning of the holiday season. These events vary in format and tradition depending on the location and organizing organization, but they all share a common goal: to provide a meaningful way to honor loved ones and raise awareness about end-of-life and palliative care. Participants often light candles, decorate memory trees, or share personal stories about their loved ones. 

Celebrating Life

Care Partners of Cook County holds space during the holiday season for those who want to remember loved ones who have passed with its own Light Up a Life ceremony. According to Christie John Care Partners of Cook County Program & Volunteer Coordinator, "We began observing Light Up a Life in 2008, while we were still “Cook County Hospice Friends” – a group of trained end-of-life volunteers organized through the North Shore Health Care Foundation in collaboration with North Shore Hospital and Sawtooth Mountain Clinic." 

Presently, the event takes place at the Johnson Heritage Post in downtown Grand Marais, but has had many homes including the North Shore Hospital Atrium, Drury Lane, the harbor next to East Bay Suites, and even outside. Even during the pandemic, the tradition continued via Zoom. 

A typical Light Up a Life ceremony hosted by Care Partners of Cook County "includes a short reflection from a member of our local faith community, music shared by an area musician, candle-lighting and naming of loved ones who have died, lighting of the outdoor memory tree, and a reception with light refreshments," John shared. "Everyone is welcome."

Supporting Care

In addition to honoring loved ones, Light Up a Life also plays a crucial role in supporting end-of-life/palliative care. These organizations provide essential care to individuals and their families during the end of life, offering physical, emotional, and spiritual support. The funds raised through Light Up a Life help support Care Partner’s end-of-life and palliative care services. Each $5 donation lights one bulb in memory of a person on the memory tree displayed outside of the Johnson Heritage Post. 

John shared a personal note about what the ceremony means to her: "It is something I personally look forward to every year. I remember how meaningful it was the first year I was in Grand Marais. Of course, I didn't really know any of the people who were mentioned during the ceremony,  but the tender looks on people's faces and the way they nodded and murmured their support and sadness as people named loved ones who had died just spoke volumes to me about the level of caring and compassion in this close-knit community."

2023 Light Up a Life Ceremony

December 7, 2023 at 5:30 pm

Johnson Heritage Post

If you are not able to attend in person, the event will be streamed online. You can contact Care Partners via phone (218-387-3788 ) or email ([email protected]) for the Zoom link.

If you would like to make a $5 donation for a bulb in memory of a loved one, visit the Care Partners of Cook County donation page here. 

If you'd like to learn more about Care Partners of Cook County or Light Up a Life, visit:

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