Chloe and Aubrey Berry were the light of their mother’s life.
One year after Chloe, 6, and Aubrey, 4, were killed on Christmas Day, Sarah Cotton is trying to push away the darkness by encouraging people to sing This Little Light of Mine.
“In looking ahead to Christmas, I wanted to find a way to remember and celebrate Chloe and Aubrey and the joy and love they brought to all of us,” Cotton said in an email.
Cotton is asking people to sing This Little Light of Mine at their Christmas singalongs or on Christmas Day in memory of her daughters. The girls especially loved the version by the singer Raffi, she said.
“People can play the piano, guitar, ukulele, whatever they want. I would much rather focus on the girl’s brightness and light rather than the negativity of it all this Christmas and I hope this will add a little positivity to everyone’s Christmas,” Cotton wrote.
Students at Christ Church Cathedral, where Chloe was in Grade 1, were taught the song and sang it at their Christmas concert on Wednesday.
Cotton and close family friend Trisha Lees declined to be interviewed as Crown prosecutors have advised against any public statements before the trial.
Chloe and Aubrey’s father, Andrew Berry, 44, has been charged with second-degree murder in the deaths of his two daughters. The girls’ bodies were found in Berry’s Beach Drive apartment on Christmas Day. Berry was found in the apartment with serious injuries and hospitalized. He was arrested when he was released from hospital.
Berry’s trial is scheduled to begin April 8 in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
Five days after the killings, hundreds of people stood in silence during a candlelight vigil at Willows Beach, where the girls loved to play.
On Friday, Oak Bay Coun. Hazel Braithwaite arranged for a ribbon to be tied around a tree in Willows Park as a silent memorial where people can pay tribute to Chloe and Aubrey. Many in the Oak Bay community had asked Braithwaite if anything was being planned to mark the one-year anniversary.
After speaking with the mayor, police officers, firefighters and the parks department, Braithwaite decided a tree in view of the playground and the beach would be the perfect place for people to quietly remember the girls.
“It will just be an area where people can see the playground, see the beach and have their thoughts about the girls and just take a moment and think about the happiness they brought to the world in the short time they were here,” Braithwaite said.
Braithwaite said there are plans underway for a more permanent memorial for Chloe and Aubrey, but the design has not been finalized.
“I think it resonates with everyone and it pulls at everyone’s heartstrings,” Braithwaite said. “They want to try to celebrate the goodness that the girls brought into their mother’s life and they want to honour that. And I think it’s a beautiful thing.
In an emotional Facebook post, Cotton’s close family friend Valerie Green shared photos of Chloe and Aubrey “as a message of love and joy.”
Green said she and her husband became surrogate grandparents to Chloe and Aubrey after Cotton’s parents died.
“On December 25th, 2017, these two beautiful little girls lost their lives, leaving an enormous hole in the hearts of everyone who knew them: Their mother Sarah, our entire family, aunts, uncles, cousins, and all Sarah’s friends as well as the girls’ school friends, the entire community of Greater Victoria, people across Canada and all around the world,” Green wrote. She declined to be interviewed on the advice of Crown counsel. “Their deaths affected so many people just as their short lives had touched each and every one of us in a most profound way.”
Green said the girls’ mother has “managed to bring triumph out of this unspeakable tragedy” by working with charities that help children, including the Mary Manning Centre, which offers child-abuse prevention and counselling programs.
A scholarship fund was established to help children attend Christ Church Cathedral School.
“In this way she is honouring the memory of her beloved daughters and will continue to do so in the years ahead,” Green wrote.
In May, Cotton ran Vancouver’s half-marathon in memory of her daughters and as a way to raise money. The campaign raised $42,950, which was split between the scholarship fund and the Mary Manning Centre.
“Despite her unimaginable loss a year ago, Sarah’s dignity and bravery has been an inspiration to us all. And that, my friends, is true courage,” Green wrote.