- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 28, 2004

The last year or so has been a rough one for Janice Richmond.

She’s lost her sister, father and mother to cancer in the past 14 months. But yesterday, the 57-year-old Fairfax woman found out she’s not alone in her grief.

She and about a thousand other mourners gathered at the Washington Hospital Center in Northwest yesterday to remember loved ones who have died of cancer.

The service, held in the hospital’s True Auditorium, was the 10th annual Interfaith Service of Remembrance.

“Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom,” said the Rev. Cameron Byrd, pastoral care consultant at the hospital, quoting Psalms 90:12. Mr. Byrd lost his wife to cancer in 1987 and his mother two years later.

“We must remember each day — no, each moment — because not even the day is guaranteed to us,” he said.

Joelle G. Novey sang a Jewish prayer, the Mourner’s Kaddish, in Hebrew.

“It is not good to be alone. It is not good for those who mourn to be alone,” she said.

Washington Hospital Center’s Cancer Institute treats 385 patients a day, said hospital president James Caldas. He noted the courage of those facing the disease.

“Remembrance is a critical and necessary part of healing the grief and loss of loved ones,” said So Young Pak, spokeswoman for the hospital.

The two-hour remembrance service was marked by Christian hymns, Jewish prayers and liturgical dance.

Ushers walked up and down the steps of the auditorium offering tissues to those in tears. Nearly everyone in attendance stood when asked who had lost an immediate family member or partner.

The front of the auditorium was adorned with photos of those who lost their battle with cancer.

Each person was asked to come forward and place a flower in one of six vases at the front of the auditorium and to say aloud the names of their lost loved one as they did.

Despite the tears and mellow mood of those gathered, the messages and songs were more uplifting than mournful.

“We know that death is not the end but the beginning of a life in a new detention,” Mr. Byrd said.

Miss Richmond said she thinks the event was very helpful after losing so many in such a short time. She noted the importance of the spiritual as well.

“I don’t know how people get through it without it,” she said.

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