Fort Riley, Kansas



Loved ones remembered with lantern floating ceremony

By Maria Childs | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | June 09, 2017

     The light from the lantern glowed as it floated off the shore of Moon Lake as the sun set behind the trees May 29. The lantern, one of many, was used during a lantern floating ceremony to remember loved ones who have passed away or could not be physically with Soldiers and family members at Fort Riley.

     For the past two years, Chap. (Capt.) Christopher Mohr has hosted the interfaith ceremony for people on post to have a new way to remember loved ones.

     “The lanterns are a way to remember those who are no longer in our lives, for whatever reason,” he said. “Usually this is people we want to remember because they have passed on, however, given the military context, where everyone moves and you may not get to say goodbye to your friends, the easiest way we could give people a way to say goodbye is by putting something like this together.”

     Prior to the ceremony, participants used markers to illustrate on the paper used to create the lantern the people they were remembering. This included people’s names and letters written to them as well as pictures of the American flag.

     “It helps us offer the community a way to remember those who they can remember, but this is a different way for them to do so,” Mohr said. “The symbolism is a lantern to symbolically light the way for those who have left us. It’s a way of saying ‘May your path be well-lit and may your travels be smooth, may this lantern be light to light the path for you,’”

     The ceremony, which was brief, acknowledged the symbolism behind the lantern floating ceremony. Mohr said similar ceremonies had been conducted for several centuries and it has roots in gratitude, wisdom and compassion.

     “The lanterns we have here are symbols of our gratitude to those who have gone before us, left and are no longer in our midst … the lanterns each contain a candle. In many traditions, light symbolizes wisdom as it dispels and pushes back the darkness … Tonight each of the candles here will be a symbol of wisdom, a light that helps us see and helps us remember,” he said. “The water on which we float the lanterns represents compassion and as we can see the water reflects light. Compassion is a reflection of wisdom and literally means ‘to suffer with’ or in our case, to share the sorrow of passing and celebrate the gratitude we intend to share with these lanterns.”

     As part of the ceremony, Mohr began by placing the largest lantern in the water and gently pushing it on its journey to the middle of the lake. Others followed his actions.

     Sgt. Yaggya Thapa, 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, was one of the participants in the ceremony and he said it reminded him of ceremonies from his home, Nepal. He said he regularly attends Mohr’s services at Fort Riley.

     “This is a good way to remember somebody you have missed,” he said. “Back in Nepal, we have this kind of celebration where you remember your family member who has passed away … this gives me that void space to remember my loved one I have missed.”