A light glows in Fallston tonight in the memory of Leslie Cooper. Mr. Cooper died this year of complications of diabetes.
He left his wife, Mary Jane Cooper, of Aberdeen with bittersweet memories of their 35 years together.
But during the holiday season, Mrs. Cooper takes some comfort in knowing at least one light on a special Christmas tree is burning for her husband.
Mrs. Cooper bought a light in Mr. Cooper's name from the Fallston General Hospital Volunteer Services Association.
At dusk on Tuesday, Mrs. Cooper watched as the light was switched on for the first time during a tree-lighting ceremony for the hospital's Memories in Lights program.
From now through the holiday season, the light for Mr. Cooper will glow, as will lights for people such as Jack Connery, Luke James Yanney and others who died this year.
About 100 of them have lights on Fallston Hospital's "memory tree." The lights were purchased for $5 each in their honor or memory from the hospital's volunteer association.
The volunteers look after the nonmedical needs of Fallston General Hospital patients and the surrounding community by contributing their time to a variety of clerical and host functions.
The association also provides funding for patient education materials, room refurbishment projects, and a scholarship program.
Susan Anderson, director of volunteer services for Upper Chesapeake Health System, which owns Fallston, said the volunteer association gives five scholarships each year to high school seniors who plan to pursue careers in medicine.
Proceeds from the sale of lights go to the scholarship program.
"It is an opportunity for individuals to raise funds for our scholarship program in memory or honor of a loved one," Ms. Anderson said.
This is the first year Fallston has sponsored a memory tree, but it hopes to make it an annual event.
Some lights on the tree represent people who are very much alive and are being honored by friends who are just glad they're here.
But most people who have bought one of the bulbs on the string of lights have relatives or friends who have died.
Joseph and Georgia Watkins of Delta, Pa., for instance, bought a light for their infant grandson, Luke James Yanney, who died a few weeks ago.
Barbara Connery and Mary Sell of Bel Air bought a light for their late husband and father-in-law, Jack Connery.
Ms. Anderson estimated only about half of the 700 lights have been purchased so far. She said anyone who wishes to buy lights may do so through Jan. 6.
Names of those honored and those who buy lights are recorded in an album placed in the hospital's main lobby.
The idea of Fallston's "memory tree" is not new.
Constance Row, president and chief executive officer of Upper Chesapeake Health System, said during the lighting ceremony that many faiths share the winter tradition.
Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace, also owned by Upper Chesapeake, has had a Memories in Lights program since 1989. Its tree lighting ceremony will be held Dec. 12.
At Fallston, the string of golden memorial lights is wound around a live blue spruce tree planted in front of the main entrance to the hospital just for the hospital's Memories in Lights program.
The tree was donated by Wyndemede Limited Partnership, which owns a Bel Air tree and garden center. The 12-foot tree is adorned only by the lights and a large golden star on top.
Lyle E. Sheldon, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Fallston General Hospital, turned on the lights Tuesday during the evening ceremony. A crowd of about 35 hospital executives and visitors, including Mrs. Cooper, burst into applause when it was lighted.
Ms. Anderson said she expects the tree to grow with the Memories in Lights tradition at Fallston hospital.
For more information about the Memories in Lights program, contact Fallston General Hospital at 877-3700.