A Special Way for Children to Remember Loved Ones

When Josie, aged seven, got a puppy dog, she told her mom, “I wish Grandpa could have met her.” Josie and her grandfather bonded over their shared love of animals, before he passed away.

Josie’s parents brought her to Lakewood Cemetery for their annual Lantern Lighting Celebration so that Josie could create a memorial for her grandpa. As she glued copies of photos of her grandfather and the new puppy on the lantern sleeve she told her mom, “Now Grandpa will know all about our new dog.”

The Power of Creating a Memorial
Every year at Lakewood’s popular Lantern Lighting Celebration, which is open to the public, families create works of art to memorialize loved ones. Children especially enjoy the powerful, therapeutic feeling of seeing their artwork come to life, then just before dusk, when the sky turns to watercolor oranges and pinks, releasing their lantern and listening for the name of their loved one to be read aloud.
This moment of serenity, celebration and commemoration is so powerful that many guests plan their lantern decorations well in advance. Here are some tips from people who attend the event year after year.

Tell a Story
With four large panels of space (dimensions below), there’s plenty of room to write your favorite story or memory. One family wrote about how their son loved working in fashion, using glitter pens to bring color and sparkle to his story. Another family wrote out several favorite jokes that their dad told over and over again throughout his lifetime.

Write a Message of Love
Many of us would love the opportunity to have just one more conversation with a loved one. Josie’s letter to her grandfather, telling him about her new dog, was truly a message of love.

Quote a Song or a Poem
A few years ago, a teenager brought along the words to a song that she and her aunt used to sing together. Poems are also popular. A group of siblings decorated lantern sleeve panels with lines of poetry that their sister loved.

Say it with Pictures
Photos and drawings are some of the most popular and colorful ways to decorate lanterns. Young children often draw pictures using vibrant, multicolored pens to create vivid, heartfelt messages. Some families love decorating with copies of their favorite photos because you can display so many joyful memories from throughout a person’s life. (If you come to the event, only bring copies of photos as lanterns are not returned at the end of the evening.)

At Lantern Lighting, Lakewood provides:

  • A four-panel lantern sleeve
  • Wood lantern base
  • LED candle
  • Multicolor array of pens
  • Stickers
  • Glue pens

What to bring from home:

  • Pictures (copies only; do not bring originals, please)
  • Song lyrics
  • Poems
  • Pre-made art
  • A flower, leaf, feather or other light nature object

When you arrive at Lantern Lighting, you’ll receive four-panel lantern paper. This tracing paper is thick enough to draw on and attach pictures to, but thin enough for light to shine through. The paper is twelve inches tall and a little more than seven inches wide. You also receive a wood base and an LED candle. Amanda Luke, Lakewood Community Programs Manger, suggests folding the paper in half before you decorate so you can clearly see each of the four panels.

The evening offers ample time to decorate a lantern, listen to music, take a self-guided tour and enjoy dinner before lanterns are released.

The event is open to the public. There is a small fee for each lantern. RSVP for Lantern Lighting on September 16, 17 and 18 here.

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