Approximately 200 people gathered at Willows Beach on Boxing Day to reflect on sisters Chloe and Aubrey Berry, who were found dead in their father’s Oak Bay apartment on Christmas Day in 2017.
Most were there to take part in a commemorative sing-along of This Little Light of Mine, which was led by Chloe’s music teacher from Christ Church Cathedral.
“Everybody in the crowd was holding lights of some sort, and there were lots of children there which was really lovely,” Oak Bay Coun. Hazel Braithwaite said.
“Sarah was actually there, the mom, and she went up at the end of the song and placed some lights at the tree, then other people just followed and started lights around the tree and it was really beautiful.”
Braithwaite was inspired to set up a memorial spot around a tree near the Willows Beach playground after seeing residents discussing ways to reflect on the tragedy in a local Facebook group. A friend of Sarah Cotton, Chloe and Aubrey’s mother, suggested singing This Little Light of Mine on Christmas, an idea Cotton loved.
At the time, Cotton said she “would much rather focus on the girls’ brightness and light rather than the negativity of it all this Christmas.” She hoped singing the song would add a little positivity to everyone’s Christmas.
“Everyone wanted to give to Sarah, and Sarah was very giving of herself and saying ‘hello’ to people and hugging, which I think really meant a lot to everyone as well. And probably really meant a lot to her to be able to see the people who had come out to honour the girls,” Braithwaite said.
“It’s really heartwarming I think that people will remember and take the time to come out and honour the lives of the girls in that way.”
The memorial at Willows Beach will remain in place until Dec. 30. Afterward, all the notes and mementos will be gathered up and given to Cotton.
Going forward, Braithwaite hopes this will always be a time where residents will want to join together.
“I’m always struck by the strength of Sarah. She is a pretty amazing human being to have gone through something like what she has gone through, and yet to be so kind and generous to everyone around her who needs to have that moment with her,” Braithwaite said.
“For her to be able to be there and let people hug her and give them a kind word, and listen to what they have to say — that takes a pretty amazing kind of person.
“You often think if you put yourself in the same situation could you be as stoic and as kind and generous as she is? I’m not sure if I could.”