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Seasons change, as do our lives

Forty people seek solace in a ceremony about remembrance, release and renewal.

© St. Petersburg Times
published November 7, 2002

DADE CITY -- As the wind whipped up and the sky threatened rain, Hernando-Pasco Hospice workers led a service Wednesday afternoon drawing on the seasons of the year and the seasons of grief.

The ceremony gave the nearly 40 people in attendance -- most of them elderly -- the chance to write the name of a loved one on a leaf and place it in an offering.

"I remember my husband, Harold. And in his memory, I am strengthened," Yvonne Cook said as she dropped her leaf into a cauldron.

Soon after, Cook told a story about her husband. On the June day that he died, Cook went to the funeral home with her two nieces. As they approached the casket, the lights in the room came on and a door slammed, startling the three women.

"I thought, well, he's getting the last laugh on us," Cook said, providing a light moment at the service when many hearts were heavy.

Hospice workers led the group in readings on how the changing seasons carry people through the stages of grief. And for each season, the group faced a new direction. North for winter. East for spring.

"The sun begins to awaken life that has been dormant and calls forth new life," read the section on spring.

One by one, the mourners filed to the microphone to offer their leaves. Many broke down in tears, the pain of loss still fresh.

Tom Beason, director of the bereavement and spiritual care program for Hospice, designed and wrote the ceremony with an American Indian theme in mind.

"It's an attempt to be very fundamental and very basic about our grief, and to remind people that it's a cycle," he said.

Zena Esper attended the ceremony with her friend Hazel Olson. A friend of Esper's died at the Hospice House in December. Olson lost her husband, A.J., 19 months ago. The women, who volunteer at East Pasco Medical Center, plan to come back for the service next year.

"It was beautiful," Olson said. "It helps."

Hernando-Pasco Hospice held services throughout the week at different locations in the two counties. The final two are today at 2 and 6 p.m. in Sims Park in downtown New Port Richey.

"One of the things we want to promote is that you don't want to forget," said Laura Finch, a Hospice bereavement counselor for 14 years.

"You want to live, but you don't want to forget."

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