PEPPERELL — Audible over the subdued music and reading of names was a quiet sound of crying and the occasional rasp of a tissue pulled from a box.
Sometimes, when a name was called, someone stood up to hang a green ornament on the unlit tree. Other times, one of the people presenting the Remembrance Tree Blessing hung the ornament.
“It’s very emotional,” said Susan McCarthy, director of the Council on Aging. “It’s really quite moving.”
Each paper ornament is unique. Some have photos or special text. Pictures and designs reflect the interests of those being remembered.
Most ornaments are dedicated to one person or a couple. All are in memory of someone who has passed away.
“Let us remember that person, maybe even smile,” said Bobby Girard, chaplain of Beacon Hospice who has attended the ceremony for the three years the senior center has displayed the tree.
Along with names, the dedications were read out loud. The words reflected the love and heartbreak of losing a loved one.
“My beautiful wife.”
“Love of my life.”
“Those I’ve loved and lost and still love.”
The youngest in attendance was a babe in arms. The oldest were seniors.
The Remembrance Tree started out small, just over a dozen ornaments the first year, McCarthy said.
Now, she does not know just how many ornaments are on the tree, but she was busy the night before the ceremony making all the new memorials people wanted.
“Our tree is too little now,” she said.
The tree is usually by the front entrance, but was moved to a bigger room for the blessing.
Beth Selinger, outreach coordinator, guided the ceremony and handed the decorations to people to hang.
The tree was Selinger’s idea, McCarthy said.
This year, the Healing Wave Trio performed music designed to be meditative and relaxing before, during and after the ceremony, thanks to a grant from the Hazel Brooks Foundation.
McCarthy and her husband, Mark, sang duets.
The ceremony honored both the grief of losing and the joy of remembering all those friends and relatives whose names and faces hang on the tree.
“People who are happy, learned to be thankful,” Girard said during the service. “In life, the key to happiness is being thankful for the gifts you receive.”
The tree, nothing but bare branches at the start of the morning, was now full of life, he said, at the close of the ceremony.