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A light for the lost

Community: Eternal Valley offers service to help the grief-stricken deal with losses during holidays

Posted: December 10, 2010 10:58 p.m.
Updated: December 11, 2010 4:30 a.m.
Emilio Orozco, 60, holds hand of his wife, Cecilia, 60, during the service Emilio Orozco, 60, holds hand of his wife, Cecilia, 60, during the service
Emilio Orozco, 60, holds hand of his wife, Cecilia, 60, during the service

When it was her turn, Debbie Longworth lit her candle and rode in her electric wheelchair to the altar, where she placed it in a growing row of lit candles.

The candle represented her love for and the memory of her mother, who died earlier this year.

“We were both disabled,” Longworth said. “We lived together, and we helped each other a lot. We were very close.”

Her mother’s death was a big loss for her, Longworth said.

About 80 people who had lost their loved ones this year attended the Service of Remembrance in the Chapel of the Hills at Eternal Valley Memorial Park on Thursday night.

The service started by screening photographs of those who died this year. The slide show was accompanied by touching piano music.

Representatives from United Methodist Church of Westlake Village, First Christian Church of North Hollywood and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church of Santa Clarita shared their personal stories of losing a close relative, and their ideas on how to cope with the loss.

The Service of Remembrance, held each year before Christmas at the Newhall mortuary and cemetery, is an annual tradition at Eternal Valley.

“Christmas is the time of joy,” said Richard Steinmetz, Eternal Valley general manager. “When a member of a family passes away, it makes it difficult to see other families celebrating the holiday.” 

Canyon Country resident Donna Borrelli, 59, came to the service with six other extended family members. Recent years were hard: almost every year, the family lost a member.

In August, Borrelli’s mother died.

“I have a hole in my heart,” she said. “It’s unbearable.”

Borrelli has been coming to the services at Eternal Valley for a few years now.

“It’s a wonderful place,” she said. “Ministers try to tell you that your family is never gone: It’s always in your heart. I can’t thank them enough for everything they do.”

Borrelli said that lighting a candle was a meaningful gesture for her.

“Everybody handles the loss or grief in different ways. I don’t pretend to give people advice,” Steinmetz said.

“But we offer this service to the community. And we hope it helps.”



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