OKEECHOBEE — In an attempt to combat their grief after losing a family member to COVID-19, Becky Driscoll and her mother Sandra Lancaster decided to, not only fulfill one of his last wishes, but to help others through the grieving process as well.
In August, the women set up a Facebook page named “Light Up for Christmas Joy.” Driscoll explains her dad, Lanny Lancaster, died in February after a 37-day battle with covid. “We were devastated,” she said. “He was the most caring and generous man I have ever known.”
As Becky and her mom thought of ways they might honor his memory, they remembered how much he loved Christmas and decorating. “He truly enjoyed the joy it brought to people’s lives,” Driscoll said. In December of 2020, the Driscolls signed a contract on their new home on Wolff Road. “When Dad knew for sure we were buying the house, his eyes lit up. The first words out of his mouth were, ‘We are taking all the outside decorations to your house next year, and everyone will get to see them!’ He was so excited and could hardly wait.”
Sadly, her dad did not make it to the next Christmas, but his wife and daughter decided to honor his wishes and make his dream come true anyway. As she thought about honoring her own dad, Driscoll thought about a close friend who lost her mother on Christmas Day last year. “I would love to be able to bring some joy to her heart by honoring the memory of her mom as well,” she said. “As these past few months have gone by, our small town has suffered so much loss and sadness and my idea of serving the memory of those gone too soon has become an overwhelming desire to make my yard beautiful this Christmas season to celebrate the season, the birth of Jesus and to remember those lives that were lost as well as bring some joy to the hearts of those passing by.”
With help from their family and friends, they got to work right away. They knew they wanted to have some sort of sign so people could add the names of lost loved ones. Soon, a large sign was built by Sonny and Lilli Anne Senesac and Shannon Lightsey of TriggCo Designs painted it. The next step was to make some sort of tag to put each name on. A long-time friend Kathy Schmitt, works for Captain Hawk Designs and they graciously agreed to cut out the wooden memorial tags for her for free.
The tags were sold for $10 each, and the money was used to purchase decorations to light up the new home on Wolff Road with Christmas joy. Not only will the sign, filled with memorial tags be prominently displayed, but there will be several memorial Christmas trees as well. A butterfly tree in memory of Jeneane Wilkerson’s mother, a blue and white tree in honor of Lancaster and a Bob Marley tree for Driscoll’s son, Robert Duquette, who also lost his life this year.
Each tag is personalized in memory of a loved one from the community. Some choose to decorate the tags themselves, but many have chosen to allow Driscoll and Schmitt to do it for them. Each tag will be screwed into the board so it will be a permanent part of the display.
The lights will be turned on Thanksgiving night as the sun goes down, and they plan to serve refreshments to the people who come by to visit.
Driscoll’s sister Gerri said, “I’m really proud of my sister. She always puts other people’s needs above her own. I think she is amazing.” Johnson explained her sister lost her son after she began the project and carried on with her plans despite the pain. "I've never been more proud of anyone in my life."
You can see the display at 2515 SW 28th Street beginning on Thanksgiving evening when the sun goes down.