Mayo tree honors those that have passed

Published 5:55 pm Friday, December 3, 2021

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A tree will be lit outside of Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin on Sunday at dark and will remain bright through the beginning of January as a memorial to those who have died in the past year in the community.

Though the traditional Set Memories Aglow ceremony has been paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayo Clinic Hospice Coordinator Nancy Anderson said families or community members who have lost someone are encouraged to drive by the tree and remember their loved one sometime in the next month.

She said holidays can be a challenging time for people experiencing grief.

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“Because the holiday season is such a family time, it can be really difficult to think about gathering with family knowing that a loved one isn’t going to be present,” Anderson said.

She said families are encouraged to plan how much they want to participate in traditional holiday gatherings, when and with whom.

“If you want to continue your traditions, that’s great, but if you don’t feel like continuing traditions this year, that’s OK,” she said.

People might also want to consider starting a new tradition during the holidays as a way to honor their loved ones, whether that be through things such as a donation in memory of their family member or friend, lighting a candle, finding a special ornament, making an Angel Tree donation or doing something else to commemorate them.

“There’s a variety of ways that a family, especially the immediate family, can honor their loved one and celebrate their life,” she said. “There’s no right or wrong way to do this.”

Mayo Clinic Hospice’s services typically follow families for up to 13 months after a family member has died, but if families still have needs, staff continue to follow up with them.

Bereavement services are open to families of loved ones who had Mayo Clinic Hospice but also others in the community.

“We serve the entire community,” Anderson said. “Grieving is hard, and people need to just be patient with themselves and each other during this difficult time of grief.”

She said everyone grieves differently, and she compared grief to snowflakes — no two people grieve the same.

She hoped the tree lit outside of the medical center can help people take a moment to remember their loved ones and make sure their loved one’s memories live on.