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Area residents honor lost loved ones during candlelight vigil

Friday, December 13th, 2013
Issue 50, Volume 17.
Alex Groves
Staff Writer

The air was crisp and cool following a day of rain and cloudy skies on Saturday, Dec. 7, as area residents gathered together beneath the cover of two community services tents outside City Hall for a candlelight vigil to honor their loved ones who passed away.

The event, the 14th annual to take place in the City of Temecula, wasnít marked by a big crowd or by an elaborate ceremony; it was a toned down and reflective evening filled with music and poetry where individuals struck with grief over the loss of a loved one could gather together with others in a real show of community and remember the love and happiness they shared with that person.

Linda Mejia, one of the founders of the annual event, spoke to the audience briefly about the vigilís history and said that it began at the Promenade Mall as a sort of retreat and that since that time it has become a community need.

"I was asked recently, a couple weeks ago (they said), ĎLinda, we need a candlelight in our community,í" Mejia said. "Because death doesnít take any respite – It doesnít wait. Itís not a respecter of persons, it doesnít care who you are and it doesnít care what your job title is."

Mejia said there had been a number of deaths in the community and that the vigil was a great way to gather in remembrance of those individuals.

For many of the eveningís attendees there was a fear that the event might not happen as winter storms kept the streets wet and the weather cold.

Mejia said she was glad for the clear and moonlit sky that materialized only hours before the event took place.

"So here we are," she said. "And guess what? I prayed for it to stop raining and it did."

Connie Winters, lead chaplain for the new Temecula Valley Hospital, led the group in prayer at the conclusion of Mejiaís speech. Before starting the prayer Winters said she was impressed by the character of Temecula as a place.

"I am new to the community but I can already see that there is a great spirit among this place," Winters said. "When I applied for the position at the hospital, I learned Advertisement
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that there were over 400 applications for volunteer services and so that indicated to me that this community does have a great spirit."

Winters added that she was impressed by the level of effort and the amount of planning that went into the vigil.

The evening continued onward as Caylie Gregorio from Temecula Valley High School sung such songs as "Amazing Grace" and "Stand by You."

Shawn Nelson, founder of Jacobís House in Temecula, then took the opportunity to provide his audience with encouraging words after he described his struggle in the wake of his sonís death.

Nelsonís son Jacob was killed in a car crash seven years ago and Nelson said that for a long time it was difficult for him to feel joy as the holidays rolled around. A typical time like Christmas, when his family would get together, would leave him with more negative feelings than positive ones.

But Nelson said that although he faced tough times, he has been able to move forward and that the same can happen for individuals who have faced the loss of a loved one.

"As I stand here tonight seven years later, I have a message of hope because something amazing has happened to me and I want to share it with you," Nelson said. "After our sonís anniversary at the end of October, the holidays came and for some reason I began to feel joy in my heart."

Nelson added that part of that process to feeling joy has been recognizing that he has a lot to live for like his wife Stephanie and his daughters.

"Stephanie, I want you to know that you are absolutely my favorite thing in this world," Nelson said to his wife. "I love you as much today as the very first day that I met you; you give me a reason to live."

The evening closed as quietly as it began, as those in attendance lit candles and told the person next to them who they were honoring.

Linda Mejia, who had opened the event with a few words, closed the event by reminding everyone in attendance that they were lighting candles because they will "never forget" their loved ones and that the memory of those individuals will always remain.



Comment Profile ImageLinda Mejia
Comment #1 | Monday, Dec 16, 2013 at 3:41 pm
Thank you Alex Groves for a wonderful article and for your attendance. The support portrayed in your words, as reported, is not an easy task....but you reflected the purpose so beautifully! Loss is such a difficult part of life...wish no one ever had to experience it. Thank you again.

Article Comments are contributed by our readers, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Valley News staff. The name listed as the author for comments cannot be verified; Comment authors are not guaranteed to be who they claim they are.


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