A seven-foot fir stands quietly amid the daily holiday season foot traffic inside Pat’s Alley. The tree’s Christmas decorations speak loudly to those who stop to read them.

The decorations are red remembrance cards, many of which contain soul-stirring messages expressing love for a family member or friend. One reads, “My loving mom will be in my heart forever”; another says, “Your generosity and humble spirit will stay with me forever”; and another reads, “Your wisdom, wit and gentle spirit are missed by many.”

These and many other handwritten remembrance card messages, some as memorable and timeless as they are brief, will be read aloud at the annual Light Up a Life tree lighting and remembrance ceremony that begins at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 13 at Pat’s Alley, on the 1400 block of Adams Avenue in La Grande. The ceremony has been conducted annually by Grande Ronde Hospital Hospice since 1995.

A number of the names may be familiar.

“For many families, this is an annual ritual,” said Teresa Smith-Dixon, the bereavement coordinator for Grande Ronde Hospital Hospice.

She said writing passages for the remembrance cards helps people with the healing process.

“The messages are a way for people to explain how they really feel,” Smith-Dixon said.

Many of the remembrances will be read Thursday are of people who died in the past year and received care from GRH Hospice. The hospice assisted 65 patients in 2018 who passed away.

In addition to the opportunity the Tree of Lights gives to people to honor their loved ones, the program raises funds for GRH Hospice. A $5 donation is suggested for each card, and the proceeds from the event go each year to support the organization. The hospice’s professional staff gives nursing assistance to people with terminal illnesses, and its volunteers provide support of all types, from giving caregivers a break to doing their grocery shopping.

See complete story in Monday's Observer