Stanly Gardens of Memory organizes lantern-releasing ceremony honoring loved ones who have died

The effect of a loved one’s death, whether from COVID-19, disease or some other reason, can impact families dealing with grief in many ways.

To commemorate those who have died the past two years, Stanly Gardens of Memory, 2001 E. Main St., is organizing a “Lantern Let Go” event Dec. 30 where individuals can help light up the sky in hopes of a better 2022.

Each person will be given a biodegradable paper rice lantern. At 6:30 p.m., people standing at their loved one’s gravesite will release the lanterns into the night sky.

“It’s important for the community to know what’s available to them, but also to know that although we’re a cemetery, we are here for them, supporting them and being a support to them as they begin to heal and rebuild their lives after suffering loss,” said Karen Stewart, family estate counselor with Stanly Gardens who is organizing the event.

The event, scheduled to start around 2:30 p.m., will give people time to spend with their loved ones and to talk with representatives from the invited facilities. Stewart reached out to local organizations, including the Stanly County Health Department, Atrium Health Stanly and elder care facilities.

“As our plans kept unraveling, we decided we also wanted to collaborate with other agencies who may offer support during times of grief, or offer counseling or even those who have cared for our loved ones and experienced the loss with us,” she said, noting having medical professionals in attendance would be a way of honoring them for their hard work over the past two years in dealing with the pandemic.

Stewart hopes the event will be a time of catharsis for many individuals and families still struggling with grief.

“The cemetery can be a sad place, and I wanted to balance the sadness with a bit of gratitude and recognition,” she said. Stewart added the event was moved to the end of December because the original idea was for a candle lighting ceremony at Christmas.

Though people with loved ones buried at the cemetery are encouraged to attend, anyone in the community dealing with grief can take part in the event.

Those wishing to attend need to register before Dec. 22 by calling 704-983-2105.