Parents shine light in La Cañada to remember
Residents of La Canada and surrounding areas met at the La Canada Congregational Church to light candles in honor of their loved ones as part of a virtual 24 hour wave of light remembrance around the world on December 11, 2011. Elijah Williams, 6 lights a candle for his sister Eva Williams. (Photo by Amy Opoka)
At 7 p.m. Sunday in every time zone in the world, a chapter of the Compassionate Friends, a support group for parents who have experienced the death of a child, lit candles in remembrance. The local event, sponsored by the Verdugo Hills Chapter of the organization and held at La Cañada Congregational Church, drew about 80 people.
According to Carole Dyck, who opened the ceremony with the poem “Let Their Lights Shine,” the idea of the candle lighting was to create a continuous virtual light around the world for parents and the memories of deceased children.
The Verdugo Hills Chapter has been holding the candlelight ceremony since 1987, when 25 people would come together and hold the ceremony outside in parks. But cold weather and rain forced them to move the program indoors.
“[La Cañada Congregational Church] has been so gracious in letting us use the facility,” said Dyck.
After poems were read, the group featured slide show honoring the names and pictures of more than 250 children who have died among the families of the local chapter. The slide show is a unique component to the candlelight ceremony, because not every Compassionate Friends chapter chooses to put one together.
A transplant from Chicago, Sabrina Stoffle came with her husband and their two children, as they honored the life of their baby Jordan Tyler Love, who passed away four years ago at the age of 9 weeks. In addition to the candles they lit for Jordan, they also displayed a framed photograph of the baby at their table.
“[Coming to these events] helps in the healing process, especially during the holiday season. Knowing everyone in the room is going through the same thing is very special,” said Stoffle.
Maribel Pineda of San Fernando has been attending the Verdugo Hills Chapter candlelight ceremony for the last four years. Pineda attends to honor her daughter, Alyssa, who was a baby when she passed away. “It was nice to have that connection with other parents who know how I feel,” said Pineda.
As the Verdugo Hills Chapter has continued to commemorate deceased loved ones in the ceremony, the participation has grown, said Olivia Garcia, a member of the group.
“I’m pleased to see the participation, because we’re volunteers and we make this happen,” Garcia said. “There are more people here than in years past.”
-- Carolyn Neuhausen, for Times Community News