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Cemetery lights reflect peace on earth

December 18, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

Cindy Jones, standing by her father-in-law's grave, couldn't help but get emotional as the sun went down and Rest Haven Cemetery began to glow with the light of 8,700 luminaires.

"I just miss him. It's just going to be bad without him," said Jones, 53, of Falling Waters, W.Va.

Jones has come to the cemetery's Festival of Lights before, but this was the first time since the death of Harry Jones last year.

"It's really nice. All these people give up their time," she said.

Saturday was the 12th year for the festival, which seems to grow each year.

So many friends and family members came it only took 45 minutes to light all the candles, protected from the wind by white bags filled with sand, said manager Eric Brown.

New this year was bagpipe player Rick Conrad, who walked solemnly through the cemetery as the candles were being lighted.

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Conrad, a Hagerstown firefighter, wore a red kilt and navy blue fire department suit jacket.

More than one person said it reminded them of the recent funeral of golfer Payne Stewart.

"His knees have got to be freezing," said Bill Shoemaker of Hagerstown.

Linda Chaney, 55, of Hagerstown, said she has been coming to the festival every year since 1991.

Her father, sister-in-law, grandparents, an uncle, an aunt and a niece are buried there. But it doesn't make her sad.

"They're in a better place than we are," she said.

It's nice because surviving family members meet at the family plot and talk about "old times," she said.

Total strangers share a special bond during the candle lighting because everyone's there with the same purpose, to remember a loved one, said Betty Beckley of Clear Spring.

"It's a very peaceful cemetery," she said.

Carol and Ron Price of Hagerstown said the lighting brings back family memories and reminds them of the true meaning of the holidays.

"It kind of brings you down to reality. It brings you back to family and brings you back to peace," said Ron Price, 57.

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