With flickering lights along the walls and in each hand, the Santa Clarita Valley Chapter of the Compassionate Friends held their 18th annual Candlelight Remembrance Program at La Mesa Junior High on Sunday.
More than 100 visitors and members of the Compassionate Friends joined together to remember children, siblings and grandchildren who died over the years. The gathering wove together musical performances, poem readings and two video presentations, all of which acknowledged the grief and love for those who were recognized.
Chapter leaders Diane Briones and Alice Renolds led the program, introducing those who sang, read aloud or spoke the Compassionate Friends credo.
Briones joined following the death of her daughter over two decades ago.
“There wasn’t anything for anybody here,” she said. “So I had actually found someone (who) had told me about a Compassionate Friends that was in Verdugo Hills, and for two years I went there.”
After forming a new chapter with other members in Santa Clarita, she initially said she wouldn’t lead. But for the last 18 years, she’s led with Renolds, who lost two sons in a car crash about 20 years ago.
“Words can’t really describe it, but they opened up and they’ve helped us cope with it,” said Misty de la Cueva, who sat with her husband Kevin and son William.
They lost their daughter, Aveline, four years ago when she was 5 months old. They joined Compassionate Friends after their therapist recommended it, and they’ve since helped other families who have experienced similar losses. De la Cueva said some of these encounters were at Disneyland, which they visit twice a year on Aveline’s birthday and on the anniversary of her passing.
She said those trips are a nod to their little “Piglet,” who was “bright pink, full of personality but scared to death of just about everything.” They hope to introduce their son, who will soon turn 3 years old, to become adjusted to their tradition.
“You don’t want anybody to have to be a member, but it’s wonderful that it is here,” Briones said. “I’ve often thought of stepping down at times, and I think if I can help one person get through the very worst time of their life, it’s been worth it. For me and my child, it makes me feel like my child didn’t die in vain.”
To learn more about Compassionate Friends, go to their website at compassionatefriends-scv.org/home.aspx.