‘Requiem of Light’ in Forest Park April 23

COVID-19 memorial to feature 1,500 lanterns circling Grand Basin

“It’s hard to grieve for an entire world,” says Rebecca Messbarger, director of medical humanities in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. “We grieve for our family. We grieve for our friends. We grieve for our neighbors and community.”

And yet, Messbarger continues, “by embracing one another, we are also trying to embrace all the people who are grieving, and all the lights that have gone out.”


Messbarger is describing a “Requiem of Light,” a memorial for St. Louisans — more than 5,000 to date — lost to COVID-19. The event, which will take place Saturday, April 23, in Forest Park, will feature original music by St. Louis composer Philip A. Woodmore, as well as remarks by the Rev. Traci Blackmon and other community speakers and musical guests including celebrated jazz artist Denise Thimes.

The event will culminate with the ceremonial lighting of 1,500 lanterns around the waters of the Grand Basin.

“Art is often the way that we translate our grief,” says Messbarger, also a professor of Italian and affiliate professor of art history, both in Arts & Sciences. “We express our grief through image, through word, through song. It’s the language of art that speaks back to the loss.”

Messbarger first conceived the idea of a community memorial more than two years ago. Last fall, she and Woodmore, who serves as artistic director, planned a ceremony in Forest Park, but threatening weather forced a last-minute move to The Sheldon in Grand Center. Nevertheless, the event drew hundreds of mourners as well as dozens of speakers and musicians. A full recording is available at the Requiem of Light website.


“For me, ‘Requiem of Light’ is a moment to pause,” Woodmore says. “It’s a moment of stillness, a moment of silence and reflection. And, you know, we all experience that moment in different ways. Some will be sad, some will be angry, some will be joyous. You just never really know what that grief is going to look like, until you go through it.”

“Requiem of Light” is open to all. Seating is first come, first serve on Art Hill and guests should bring their own chairs or blankets. Music will begin at 7:15 p.m. with remarks at 7:30 p.m. The requiem will conclude with the lantern lighting ceremony at approximately 8:15 p.m.

Institutional support for “Requiem of Light” is provided in part by AON, Clayco, Edward Jones, Enterprise Holdings, Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion, Gateway Foundation, Husch Blackwell, William T. Kemper Foundation, Maxine Clark and Bob Fox’s Fund, Pershing Place Foundation, Lewis Rice, Saint Louis University, Tarlton Corp., United Way of Greater St. Louis, US Bank, Washington University, Washington University Institute for Public Health and Washington University Women’s Society.

For more information or a complete program, visit the Requiem of Light website.

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