BILLERICA — Given their recent hardships, anyone would understand if Ed and Cindy Lossman decided to take a break from the months-long task of decorating their Billerica home for the holidays in their gloriously over-the-top trademark style.
Their difficulties began in December 2021, when Ed was hospitalized for COVID-19 just weeks after switching on that season’s massive display. During the four-month ordeal, he received last rites twice while on a ventilator battling raging fevers, two bouts of pneumonia, collapsed lungs, complications from diabetic ketoacidosis, and blood clots requiring the amputation of half his right foot.
In fact, Ed was still hospitalized when Cindy’s father, James Senior, lost his battle with Alzheimer’s disease at his Pepperell home in February 2022. This past summer, Ed had just returned to work following further foot surgery when the couple’s 36-year-old daughter, Courtnie, died unexpectedly. The date, Aug. 30, was Cindy’s birthday.
Despite the couple’s unabated grief, they never considered dimming the lights on the tradition that has become a local legend. Instead, this year’s presentation is dedicated in memory of Courtnie, whom they call their “angel above.”
“I’m not taking Christmas away, on top of everything else,” Cindy insisted. “Not from my grandchildren or from anyone.”
For the 29th year, Lights at the Lossmans is shimmering at 26 Biscayne Drive in Billerica through Dec. 31. The spectacle — which began innocently enough with outdoor blow molds of Mickey and Minnie Mouse — now takes four months to organize with endless twinkling lights, light-up Santas, elves, gingerbread men, angels, snowmen, trees, wreaths, snowflakes, candy canes, brightly wrapped presents, various Christmas villages, and garland galore. And that’s just inside.
The winter wonderland continues on the front and side lawns with reindeer pulling Santa’s sled, an army of toy soldiers lining the steps, an animated Ferris wheel, and a scene from “A Christmas Story” depicting a boy with his tongue frozen to a pole. The only understated aspect of the dazzling array is a pair of white wicker seats on the front porch where the Lossmans enjoy watching visitors react with glee or become stunned into silence.
“I absolutely love the kids, but I also love the adults who act like kids,” said Cindy, noting that a parade of party buses and vans from senior housing communities visit almost nightly. Yet the real magic takes place just outside the display, where a donation box has discreetly united visitors in the true spirit of the holidays for the past decade.
At first, however, Cindy said she was hesitant to incorporate even an optional fund-raising component into the free event.
“Christmas is supposed to be fun. So many people can hardly afford gifts, and I didn’t want anyone to feel bad or think they had to donate,” she said. But after adding a large quantity of decorations from a Tewksbury family who had concluded their own decorating ritual, unsolicited donations began appearing.
“I’d wake up and a pile of canned goods would be on the front steps,” Ed said. “People just assumed we were collecting for the food pantry.”
The Lossmans improved on the idea, using their annual festivities to raise spirits, funds, and awareness for local residents and causes. Past beneficiaries include Nathan Casella, a Billerica boy fighting Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma; Reece Zink, born with a rare genetic condition; the family of Tim Oliveri, a lifelong Billerica resident who succumbed to pancreatic cancer at age 48; and the Longo family of Chelmsford when Mike, a father of three young children, relapsed into Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
This year, the Lossmans’ labor of love is dedicated to the Marcus family of Saugus, for whom $42,282 has been raised to date from more than 500 donors toward a $100,000 goal on GoFundMe. After being diagnosed with melanoma in 2016, Larry Marcus endured multiple remissions and recurrences before succumbing to brain cancer on Nov. 27. His wife, Suzanne, is a stay-at-home mom for their 6-year-old son, Cameron, and 3-year-old twin daughters, Charlie and Sky.
Suzanne Marcus said she is “speechless” that a couple who learned of her family’s heartbreak through their shared friend, Melissa Geraci of Tewksbury, is demonstrating such uncommon compassion and generosity.
“I wish this wasn’t happening and I didn’t need the help, but it’s comforting to know there’s a community behind you and that people really do care,” Marcus said. “I’m humbled and very appreciative. I can’t wait to meet [the Lossmans] and give them the biggest hug of my life.”
Geraci, who organized the GoFundMe campaign benefiting the Marcus family, became the beneficiary of last year’s fund-raising efforts at Lights at the Lossmans when Cindy discovered her family’s GoFundMe online. That campaign raised more than $10,200 after Geraci’s paid leave through her teaching job ran out while caring for her twin sons, Matthew and Andrew, who each weighed 2 pounds when born 15 weeks early on Oct. 28, 2022.
“Because of the GoFundMe and the Lossmans, I was able to focus on my babies with less financial stress,” said Geraci, noting her wish to pay their kindness forward. “The fact that Cindy and Ed have their own tragedies, but are still helping other people, speaks a lot to who they are.”
The Lossmans, who experienced the power of good will firsthand when a friend launched a GoFundMe on their behalf during Ed’s hospitalization, said they are firmly committed to the circle of giving while delighting visitors with continuous improvements.
“I’ve still got stuff coming in the mail that you don’t know about, hon,” Cindy told Ed. He looked down and shook his head slowly while telling a visitor, “I don’t look at the checkbook. I don’t want to know.”
“Just like I don’t look at the electric bill,” Cindy replied.
“I guess we’re in it for the long haul,” Ed said with an exaggerated sigh. “I couldn’t afford the moving trucks.”
For more information about Lights at the Lossmans, including display hours, Santa’s schedule of visits, weather-related cancellations, and photos, visit lightsatthelossmans.com, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube.
Cindy Cantrell may be reached at email@example.com.