Hundreds of people gathered at K2 Leisure Centre in Crawley on Sunday to remember lost loved ones at a special Tree of Light service organised by St Catherine’s Hospice.
The non-denominational service included carols, readings - and a chance for people to hang a star on the Tree of Light and view a Book of Remembrance featuring the names of loved family members and friends being remembered.
More than 550 people of all ages attended and many wrote personalised messages on a special star, before hanging it on the twinkling tree, in return for a donation to the hospice.
The service was open to everyone, regardless of when they lost someone or if their loved one had been a patient at St Catherine’s.
Carols were sung by inChoir, an adult community choir led by Karen O’Connor, and readers included Gavin Stephens, who shared his personal experience of the care and support his wife, Sarah, received while under the care of St Catherine’s.
Christmas can be a special time of year for families and friends, but for many people who have lost someone close, it can also be a time of deep sadness. Patients’ bereaved friends and relatives are helped by St Catherine’s and the hospice also provides wider community support through local bereavement groups in Crawley, Oxted and Dorking.
Every year, St Catherine’s needs to raise £6 million to fund all their running costs. All donations from the Tree of Light service will help towards funding crucial end of life care for local people, which includes community nursing services, day hospice sessions and Inpatient care at the hospice’s main site in Malthouse Road, Southgate.
The Rev Lisa Rainer, spiritual care lead at St Catherine’s, said: “It was such a privilege to be a part of the Tree of Light service at K2 and to see so many local people coming together to remember their loved ones.
“Christmas can be a really difficult time for anyone suffering bereavement, but we hope the service provided some comfort to everyone who attended. St Catherine’s doesn’t stop caring for people after bereavement. We’re always there to support the community.”
A second, smaller Tree of Light service will take place in Crawley, at the United Reformed Church, on Sunday 13 December at 4pm. Everyone is welcome to attend.