On December 14th, Pleasant Hills Memorial Park in Sebastopol, California will be illuminated by the light of 4,800 candles. Volunteers begin at 8am preparing, setting-up and lighting luminaria (paper bags filled with sand and a candle). By sunset each grave will be graced by the glow of candlelight, from the tidy rows of the military fallen to hundred year old moss-laced tombstones. The effect is quite extraordinary and beautiful. I have walked among the candles some years under a clear star-filled sky and other years with a magical coastal fog swirling around the glowing lights. It is a night to contemplate those who have passed and to share their stories with friends, family, and even strangers.
This annual tradition began when parents Dave and Linda Duckhorn felt inspired to do something to brighten the grave of their son Michael who was tragically killed in a vehicle accident at age 25. They asked memorial park owners Jim and Gerry Johnson if they could string some holiday lights in a tree near the grave. The conversation led to the idea of Light a Candle of Love and in 1998 with the help of only 12 volunteers they covered the grounds with 1,200 luminaria.
Current owners of Pleasant Hills Memorial Park, Jeff Lyons and Matt Hewitt continue the tradition and extend an invitation to the community to be a part of this beautiful celebration of remembrance. Volunteers and visitors can drop by throughout the day to help set up or just to enjoy the lights. During the holidays, a time of year which can be especially difficult for those who have experienced loss, the Light a Candle evening provides a supportive environment for expressing and sharing grief. It is a place to be with community or to walk in silent contemplation. It offers an opportunity to find solace and beauty in the creative spirit of love.
-Singing Luna 12/7/2013
Light a Candle of Love is an annual event held the second or third Saturday before Christmas (alternate date in case of rain). For more information and directions to the park go to: