Locals mourn lost loved ones at Community Candlelight Tribute

Members of the community gather for the 19th annual Temecula Community Candlelight Vigil at City Hall to remember loved ones who have died, Nov. 30. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

More than 100 people turned up for the annual Community Candlelight Tribute Saturday, Nov. 30, in front of Temecula City Hall to remember their loved ones who died.

The event, founded by Linda Mejia, who lost her son more than 20 years ago, featured music, stories, words of encouragement and support for the families and friends in attendance.

Before taking the podium, Faith Zember played a song that was recorded by her daughter Lily Harrison, a Murrieta 15-year-old who was killed earlier this year by a DUI driver in Temecula.

“Like many of you, the holiday season has forever been changed,” Zember said. “They will forever be altered, different and revised. The years of family traditions and fond memories are now unable to be furthered in the same ways that they once were. Life forever changed for our family on June 1.”

Zember spoke of the pain that many people feel during the holiday season after losing a loved one.

“Our stories are filled with broken pieces left on the ground,” she said. “For many of us, the holiday seasons are simply a reminder of our pain. The hurt and void longing for those who have been called home to heaven.”

She encouraged people to give of themselves in order to help heal and cope with the struggles they feel.

“We decided to spend our Thanksgiving holiday giving thanks, giving generously and serving others,” Zember said. “As the tears rolled down my face, my heart sank and I wept. My heart hurt. I hurt not for my own pain, but for the pain of others. Seeing just the tiniest glimpse of how God sees each of us, each of us so desperately hurting for his love and for the love of others.

“I cried as God showed me his love for me, I cried as God revealed himself working through us bringing hope and love to others,” Zember said.

Next, Mejia took the microphone to encourage everyone to get out and help others.

“Get out from under the pillow and the covers and go out and bless someone,” she said. “I promise you, God’s power is amazing.”

The event was the last one with Mejia as organizer. She passed the torch to Dianne Hoffman of 102.5 KGGN-FM The Vine radio station.

“We owe her such a debt of gratitude,” Hoffman said of Mejia. “We are so thankful, so thankful. Here’s a card that’s signed by a lot of people who just love you so much, Linda.”

Karen Harkey, whose 15-year-old daughter Autumn Harkey died in a car crash 25 years ago, also spoke, and chaplain Steve Wimberly of the Murrieta Police Department opened the evening with an invocation.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com.