These are strange, troubled times. But one positive from this Coronavirus Crisis is that we really appreciate our social interaction − taken for granted until now.
Loneliness is a dreadful experience which, in the weeks ahead, many will experience acutely. Various Linlithgow organisations work tirelessly to help combat this feeling of isolation. For this reason, Linlithgow Grange Rotary supports such organisations with its Tree of Light initiative at Christmastime. Six organisations were selected for the 2019 campaign: Linlithgow and Community Day Care Centre, providing short-term secure environment and entertainment for frail elderly people whilst at the same time giving relief for the family or carer; Linlithgow Link whose activities include the monthly Caring Café for people with dementia; Link also provides transport to and from hospital or health-related appointments when public transport proves difficult; Carers of West Lothian, a charitable organisation that has developed a support service for carers, many of whom are carrying out their role in some isolation; and The Cyrenians who give one-to-one support and encouragement through befriending and telephone.
There can be no more traumatising sense of loneliness than losing someone dearly loved. Sands, The Stillbirth and Neo-Natal Death Society now appropriately renamed Held in our Hearts, works both to help reduce infant mortality and to ensure that anyone affected by a baby’s death receives optimum care and support for as long as required.
No magic formula will take away the pain of bereavement but, by listening and sharing with others, we often lessen the sense of isolation, chaos and despair felt after the death of a loved one. Positive Pathways Bereavement Support — a group of bereaved people who meet informally with a support team, sharing thoughts and feelings in looking forward.
Rotary Club members have been delighted to raise money on behalf of these organisations which function through the valuable contribution of volunteers, while largely dependent on public funding.
Linlithgow’s Rotary Tree of Light is now in its fourth year. We use a dedicated tree, illuminated at Christmas, as a focus for people to commemorate lost members of family and close friends or to celebrate a significant event in their lives. Tree of Light donations generously made direct or online in the 2019 campaign have now been disbursed to the charities and will be put to good use at this time or as soon as the things gets back to some equilibrium as their needs dictate. Originally, we used the tree outside the old Library in the Vennel, but for 2019 the town’s Christmas tree at The Cross played the role. Now placed in the very heart of the community, with new lighting partly sponsored by generous grants from Alan Steel Asset Management, RGM Solicitors, Stewart Electrical, Cala Homes and individual donations, our tree proudly displayed the community spirit of the town.
We must commend our three councillors for their encouragement and support in permitting the Tree to be allocated for this purpose. As a result of its higher profile, the 2019 Tree of Light received 50% more dedications, doubling the previous year’s income. Rotarians were in attendance each December weekend until Christmas answering questions and providing dedication forms. We were humbled by the warm praise for our initiative from passers-by.
One tableau to remain in the writer’s memory is driving past the Cross one December evening and seeing three couples intently reading the dedication cards below the tree. For a brief moment, the names of the many loved ones were spoken, albeit silently, once more. As the old African proverb states, “As long as you speak my name, I shall live forever”. The Tree of Light provides comfort and solace to many and the Rotary Club of Linlithgow Grange is proud to be of service in this way.