FOREST CITY | Dorothy Hill of Leland lost her son, Randy, in January following his nearly two-year battle with cancer.
In July, her husband of 64 years, Roger, died.
"We were always together," Hill said of her late husband. "We planned everything together, so it's pretty tough."
She said she received comfort by attending the Holiday Remembrance Service on Dec. 1 in the chapel of the Cataldo Schott Funeral Home in Forest City.
"It's just so wonderful," she said.
Being with others who are grieving during the holidays makes you feel "you are not alone," she said.
This is the third year the funeral home has hosted the service.
More than 50 names of those who died during 2017 were read aloud during the service.
Loved ones of those individuals were invited to place a personalized angel ornament on the Christmas tree in the chapel.
Sometimes several generations of the same family came forward to place their loved one's ornament on the tree.
After the service the families took the ornaments off the tree and took them home with them.
"It's a nice keepsake they can hang on their tree," said Isaiah Schott, director of the funeral home.
Those who attended the service were invited to stay for a reception afterwards.
"They talk and share memories of their loved ones," Schott said.
The Rev. Rod Hopp, lead pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church, gave the message during the service.
For those who are facing their first holiday season without a loved one, "Christmas will come, whether you are excited, terrified or numb," he said.
Christmas is the work of a faithful, loving God "who is in the spiral with us" even if we don't feel it or recognize it" according to Hopp.
He invited the grieving family members to ask God to meet them "in the spiral of life you find yourself in from time to time."
He recalled how he once visited the New Beginnings House of Home shelter for homeless women and their children in Mason City.
A staff member gave him a tour. When they were in a bedroom with a crib, the staff member told him how a young unwed mother once shared the room with her baby.
She told Hopp that not long after the baby arrived, the young woman's parents came to the shelter and they all went home together.
Hopp said the staff member then remarked, "Babies bring families together."
Hopp told those at the service that the baby Jesus does the same thing, and one day their families will be reunited in heaven.
Melanie Harms Espeland sang "Silent Night," "Mary Did You Know?" and "O Holy Night" during the service.
The music was outstanding, according to Hill. She said she particularly appreciated it because she and her family sang together all the time while traveling in their motor home.
"That was our entertainment," she said.