VACAVILLE — One after another they came forward to light the candles in their hands, saying the names of their lost sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews.
More than 100 people gathered at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Vacaville Sunday night for their part of the Worldwide Candle Lighting to honor and remember all those children who have died before their time.
“It is our love expressed,” said Colette Hutchinson, explaining the meaning of the candles.
It has been 15 years since the organization called the Compassionate Friends began The Worldwide Candle Lighting Program to honor and remember children who have died at any age from any cause.
Around the room are several tables with photos of many of those children and teens being memorialized that evening, many with candles lit in front of them. As more people arrived, more pictures were added.
Some of those who arrived, wore T-shirts with photos or buttons with the children’s faces on them. Many hugged and greeted those they remembered from previous gatherings sponsored by the Solano County chapter of The Compassionate Friends.
“We try to keep it as quiet and calm as we can,” said Vesta Thompson, who lost her 28-year-old son David seven years ago to a motorcycle accident. “One of the things we don’t do well as parents (who lost children) is socialize. All those here have suffered loss.”
In the back of the room were several gift baskets up for bidding in a silent auction to raise funds.
“Another thing we don’t do well is Christmas shop,” Thompson said.
One of those who arrived was Arthur Naverud of Napa who lost his 19-year-old son Raymond two years ago because of an accidental overdose. Naverud read a poem dedicated to his son and the first Christmas that the family spent without him.
“We were a little hesitant to come our first year,” said Naverud of first meeting with Compassionate Friends. “But it was very comforting, and I now look forward to this.”
“There is not anything that will make the loss easier, but to be with others who understand is good. It seems like our fates are intertwined.”
Fairfield resident Diane Varoz, who lost her 17-year-old son Tony Varoz 11 years ago, described the Compassionate Friends’ work as showing parents who lost children “that they need not walk alone.”
“Everyone who finds us will be helped,” Varoz said.
In addition to the annual candle lighting, the group meets monthly and is working to create a children’s memorial garden in the area.
For more information, call 434-8515 or visit www.compassionatefriends.org.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.