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Family Tradition Carries Special Meaning This Year
Created by on 12/13/2010 12:28:17 PM

Samaritan's Tree of Life Ceremony has become a 17-year tradition for this Mercer County family.

Seventeen-year-old Brittany Karch has been attending the memorial tree lighting ceremony sponsored each year by Samaritan Hospice since before she was born.

Her grandmother, Judy Kerrigan, explains, “The first time our family attended to remember my mom, Doris Malkin, my daughter Pam was pregnant with Brittany. We’ve been coming every year since. Our family – as many as 15 of us some years -- just regards this as the way we begin to celebrate our holidays each year by honoring and remembering those who are no longer here to celebrate with us.”

The family was out in force again for this year’s event on December 9th at the Hamilton Township Senior Center.

Those they remember each year include Judy’s father, William Malkin, who died 26 years ago in a hospital, Judy’s mom who received care from Samaritan Hospice and her brother who died suddenly at age 55. “But this year will be an especially tough one,” said Judy, “since we will all be missing my sister, Patricia Young, who received wonderful care from Samaritan and died in April 2010.”

As Brittany’s younger sister Melissa, 11, wiped away tears, Judy explained, “My sister Patricia Young was like a second grandmom to the girls. She babysat them, attended every family event, every dance recital, every Tree Lighting.”

Pat had battled cancer for 12 years and even attended last year’s tree lighting event. “She was kind to everyone and always had a smile on her face no matter what she was going through. We know she’ll be smiling down on us as we attend the Tree Lighting this year,” said Judy.

In addition to remembering their loved ones, the family comes each year to show appreciation for the care both their mom and Pat received. “Samaritan allowed them to stay at home with the people they love and die with dignity,” said Judy. “We wouldn’t miss the Tree Lighting. It’s just a family event that we put on our calendars each year as soon as the date is announced.”

The annual ceremony is open to anyone in the community, whether or not their loved ones received care from Samaritan Hospice. Families may dedicate a light on the tree in memory of those they have lost. The 20-minute non-denominational ceremony includes inspirational readings, music by Hamilton Elks Glee Club and light refreshments served afterwards.

Pictured above: Judy Kerrigan (second from left ) with her daugher, Pam, and granddaughters Brittany and Melissa.

You can read more about Judy's family and their special tradition in this Trenton Times article.