MERIDEN — The Meriden Senior Center held its fourth annual Celebration of Life this week, honoring members of the center who died during 2023 in an event that was both somber and hopeful, as reflected by butterflies.
Eight members were recognized, with speakers reciting poems and telling the assembled seniors that the best way to remember those who passed was through cherishing shared memories on the departed.
Allison Sanders, a funeral director from the John J. Ferry & Sons Funeral Home, offered a special reading to the modest group of assembled seniors in attendance — ending with a petition to remember those who’d passed.
The names of the eight honored members were: Patricia Crane-Kay, Nancy E Flagg, Carolyn Gress, Theresa Niemiec, Zulema Aguiar, Jose Rivera, James Rochette and Ramon Santiago.
“We believe their legacy deserves to be cherished, and we are hopeful that reflecting on their lives and the memories you have made with them will never be forgotten,” said Liz Parra, the Senior Center recreation coordinator, during the ceremony.
Representatives from the Cove Center for Grieving Children and Hunter’s Ambulance were also in attendance to provide resources for members to grapple with their time of loss. The Cove provided butterfly crafts for seniors to write upon as a way of raising awareness for Children’s Grief Awareness Day, which fell on the same day.
The butterflies were a significant symbol for this year’s celebration, presenters said, as a symbol of hope and new life growing out of the old. Once the seniors finished putting names on them, they were to be hung up around the center.
Students from Meriden’s Success Academy were also there to assist staff, providing cookies and concessions which they passed around alongside small bags containing butterfly charms and Forget Me Not seeds to plant in the spring.
At the end of the ceremony, the names of the departed residents were added to the Memorial Tree in an alcove outside the center’s cafeteria. The tree is dedicated to every member of the senior center who had died since its inception, with a book to write memories inside. The tree is painted on the wall and has leaves added during each Celebration of Life toward the end of the year. It was given to the center by John J. Ferry & Sons Funeral Home in 2019.
Some members in attendance became emotional during the proceedings and needed comfort from the staff.
“Losing someone is hard, probably one of the hardest things you'll experience,” Sanders said. “But even though you've lost someone who you've deeply loved, a part of them is always going to be with you. We have to try to be strong and always remember that the thing they want most for us is to be happy and to celebrate their life.
“Cherish the moments you have now. Because one day those moments will become a memory. And when they become a memory, it is important to keep your loved ones alive and share their stories with others.”
According to Parra, what makes the ceremony so important is that the senior center has a close-knit community. Holding the Celebration of Life, she said, gives everyone a collective time to remember and support each other during a grieving period.
“We are just like a big family here. So we get to know each other's stories, who we've lost, who we've gained in our life, things like that,” Parra said. “And right before the holidays when everyone's kind of gathering and remembering their list of people who they invite, that's when I think we start thinking about those that we lost probably the most. So that was kind of the start of this to kind of help soothe and tell everybody that you have people here that can relate.”
The obituaries for the eight members are available online on the John J. Ferry & Sons’s website: www.jferryfh.com/.