For some members of Charleswood United Church, lighting a small Christmas light around the sanctuary of their church is an act of loving remembrance for the lives of loved ones who have died.
"We are choosing to remember those who were there with us," says George Drad, whose son Gregory passed away in 1982.
It was Drad’s wife, Peggy, who died this past July, along with two other families, who initially started the Lights for Lives campaign at Charleswood United Church in 1993.
All the families had experienced the pain of losing a child, and wanted to do something to remember those children.
"Sadly, in our culture, it is not commonplace to openly talk about a deceased loved one," reads the church’s website.
But for the family members left behind, talking about a missing loved one, especially over holidays such as Christmas, can be comforting.
For several years, the Lights for Lives committee compiled a list of names, which were read off during a regular Sunday morning service at Charleswood United. At the same time, lights were lit around the sanctuary in memory of those people.
"It was very emotional," says Drad.
It was so emotional, he says, that it was difficult for some people to even attend the service. However, the church and the committee still felt the act of coming together to remember people was an important one.
Now, the church holds a separate service of remembrance on the first Sunday of January.
Names of loved ones are written in a book of remembrance, and the lights from the campaign adorn the sanctuary.
Small tags can be taken home and placed on a Christmas tree, with a little line stating that a light is shining in the church in someone’s memory.
The service is non-denominational, and all are invited to join.
"We’ve really grown," says Drad. "People come from all over Manitoba, and sometimes even further."
To record a name in the campaign, contact Charleswood United Church. The non-denominational service of remembrance will be held on Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. in the sanctuary.
Amanda Thorsteinsson is a community correspondent for Charleswood.