Joiner-Anderson Funeral Home and Bulloch Memorial Gardens hosted a Candlelight Service Tuesday evening for family members to honor the passing of a loved one. The event was held at Joiner-Anderson Funeral Home, and participants hung an angel ornament on a tree to recognize the family member.
“Several years ago, we recognized a need at this time of year in the families we served,” Tracy Joiner said. “We offer a number of grief-type programs throughout the year, but the holidays can be a very difficult time for someone who’s lost someone.
“We want to give hope and inspiration. Our angels give them something to have, that physical touch, a tangible reminder.”
Joiner-Anderson Funeral Home, under the direction of owners Tracy Joiner, Mark Anderson and Bland Mathews Jr., has offered the Candlelight Service to the community for a number of years.
“Many of our participants come year after year,” Joiner said, “but most of those participating have lost someone just this year.”
During a very solemn service, the packed chapel held grieving family members of more than 50 loved ones who had passed. Rev. Rhon Carter, Statesboro First Baptist Church, played the piano and sang, and Elder John Scott, Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Church, gave a brief message.
Elder Scott shared what most of those in attendance had fresh awareness of — that grief is a very difficult and lengthy journey. Scott said that every person grieves differently and that there will be times of questions and doubts, sadness and anger, joy and pain.
Scott read from Chapter 46 of the Book of Psalm and said, in part, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”
As each name was read aloud, family members came forward to receive a personalized angel ornament to place on the Christmas tree. Following the service, family members took home the ornaments as a gift and reminder.
Participant Nancy Deal, the Science Department chair at Jenkins County High School, lost her mom in March.
“I was 13 and my sister, Lisa, was 11 when our dad died, so we really feel like adult orphans,” Deal said. “The memorial service offered by Joiner-Anderson was really a wonderful way to celebrate the Christmas season and include our missing loved one.
“The music and message were truly beautiful, and the personalized angel keepsake ornament will be a lasting reminder of mom’s time on this Earth and her eternal life with our Lord.”
Penny Aubrey’s story
Penny Aubrey’s grief may not be as new as some of the participants, but the feelings are just as raw and difficult.
“Even though this is our fourth Christmas without Jordan, it isn’t any easier,” Aubrey said.
Jordan, who lost his life at the tender age of 17 from an accident-related head injury, was the middle child of three.
“I’ve never been to the service and not sure what made me decide to go this year,” she said. “Christmas is especially hard. I think because we lost Jordan at such a young age and the memories of his childhood Christmases are still fresh in our memories.
“I’ve had an especially hard time this season for some reason. That service gave me an overwhelming sense of peace, and I felt Jordan there with me as I placed his angel on the tree. God knows what we need when we need it. It was very touching that Joiner-Anderson does that for families.”
Tessa Martin’s story
Tessa Martin, who is on staff as a funeral director at Joiner-Anderson, is passionate about the service and knows first-hand of the struggles of grief. Martin lost her mom in 2002 and several aunts and uncles in a relatively short period of time.
Shortly after losing her mom, she briefly considered going to school for funeral work, but changed her mind.
In 2004, Martin’s 16-year-old daughter was killed in a tragic car accident at the intersection of Highway 46 and Highway 67.
“Life experiences change you,” she said.
In the years just after her daughter’s death, Martin fought tirelessly to get a traffic light installed at the deadly intersection. Though the light was eventually denied, the 10,000-plus signatures she collected resulted in a study that culminated in a change of traffic flow at the site of her daughter’s death.
“If her death can help someone, then it’s a small comfort that our Madelyn did not die in vain.”
That incredible time of grief turned Martin back to the idea of funeral work, and she began work at Joiner-Anderson in 2011.
“With the talents God gave me, I thought what better way to use them than to help a person in their time of need,” Martin said.
“These people made a difference while they were here, and now I can make a difference. I’m thankful to be part of the Joiner-Anderson family. We really are like a family here. We’re glad to be able to help families during their time of grief and to honor their loved one’s memory with this service. It’s our way to let the family know we haven’t forgotten them.”
Elder Scott concluded the service with a prayer and words from a poem that ended with these words: “We will help one another grow as we grieve. We are not alone.”