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Circle of Lights: A night to remember

By Angela Ross, KCH Content Specialist
Published: June 7, 2022

As rain comes pouring down from the sky, a gloomy day like this usually puts me in a somber mood, but not today. Today I look forward to spending the evening remembering my Grandmother who passed away from cancer in 2012. She was the cornerstone of my family and my guiding light. Having time set aside to reflect on everything she has done to support me and my family puts a smile on my face and turns my rain into sunshine. The annual Circle of Lights event hosted by Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care (KCH) gives me and the families in our community the opportunity to honor loved ones who have died, which is an important step in the grieving process – giving comfort and strength to these families. Our Night of Remembrance was a night to remember.

As I walk through the doors of Community Christian Church in Kansas City, Missouri to attend this event in-person, for the first time, there is a ray of sunshine that lights the vestibule as I see the many luminaries lining the halls of the church and I immediately have a feeling of happiness. Entering the chapel, where the program will take place, luminaries line the stage which makes it glow. I feel grateful to have the opportunity to gather together with KCH staff, volunteers, prior patients and community members to honor the lives of those who are no longer with us. There are so many families present and I am fortunate to have the chance to speak to Angelina Mendez, and her family, who are here to honor her father. With tears in her eyes Angelina expresses that her father was a great man who enjoyed his family and was always making people laugh. His personality shows through the image she and her loved-ones had on their shirts. Her father was cared for by KCH during his last week of life and Angelina notes that the care and services they received were amazing.

Brad Rinker with daughter Katie Woolery at Circle of Lights event.

I also hear a story of true love and devotion from Brad Rinker, who is at Circle of Lights to honor his wife of 15 years. While Brad shares he was unsure of their family’s decision to admit her to hospice care, his daughter Katie Woolery notes that, “It was FATE!” Brad says that while at NorthCare Hospice House, “I stepped out to the hall and prayed ‘please show me some kind of sign that I’m doing the right thing’ – was this the right hospice. So I asked God to show me a sign and there was Mr. Oliver.” A familiar face who immediately set his mind at ease that the right decision was made.

As the Circle of Light’s program begins there is a beautiful musical performance by Jesse Heilman and comforting words about loss and processing grief from KCH leaders including our Chaplains and David Wiley, President & CEO. The most moving part of the evening for me is when Dr. Iman Williams-Christians recites a story by a grief support client while interpretative dancers, from KC Contemporary Dance, flow down the church’s aisle. Their dancing brings to life the words being read – an impactful moment indeed! We also take a moment to view a video with the many names of loved ones who have passed away over the years and this shows me that I am not alone.

Local artists perform at the Circle of Lights event as tribute.

Long-time KCH volunteer and board member Sherry Ainsworth shares, “I think especially after COVID and so many people not having the opportunity to honor their loved ones, to remember them, to have a ceremony and to be in community… to be able to come and be in community where everybody feels a want and desire to honor their loved ones, to remember them it’s nice. It puts it into perspective that you’re not alone, you’re all here for a similar reason and everybody leaves an impact on your life.” 

These words resonate with me as I reflect, remember, and recognize my loved ones in a meaningful way – providing hope for the future. Each year at Kansas City Hospice, we join with the community to honor the lives of those who are no longer with us. This interfaith ceremony of remembrance always incorporates the lighting of candles, and is scheduled on the Tuesday before Memorial Day. This event is free to the community and any funds raised from the event supports Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care and the many programs that support the community. We are grateful to announce that more than $48,000 in donations for families in-need was raised through this year’s event. 

Volunteer Sherry Ainsworth with Volunteer Coordinator Lane Foster handing out candles for luminaires.

This year there were about 1,050 luminaries lit to honor loved ones remembered. To view all of the virtual candles lit online please visit, KCHospice.org/2022COL. We look forward to another wonderful remembrance ceremony next year and hope you will join us!


2 Comments on “Circle of Lights: A night to remember”

  1. Angelina Mendez Says:

    I just want to say thank u to everyone for the opportunity to come and honor and remember my dad with several of his grandchildren and great grandchildren and my brother who was also able to join us it was a beautiful ceremony. And you have done a lovely article on the event thank you. Would it be possible to get a copy of the picture that was taken of my family that night of the event sent to my email so that may share it with those who were not able to attend.

  2. Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care Says:

    Angelina, thank you so much for the kind words and for sharing your story with our team. We are grateful that we were able to provide a safe and comforting space to honor your father. We will reach out via email about the photos. Sending wishes of peace and comfort.

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