By CLAIRE ST. JOHN
The price of joining Compassionate Friends is unreasonably high.
Everyone in the group has lost a child to suicide, disease, accident and sometimes old age.
On Dec. 8 , the international group will hold a candle-lighting ceremony in remembrance of their deceased children.
Mimi Miller of Sonora will light a candle for her son, Jon, who died almost five years ago.
Jon was 24. He had been married for a year and a half, was working as an emergency medical technician in the Santa Cruz area and was studying to be a paramedic.
His life sounded great. But he suffered from depression and anxiety, and was on medication.
One day in March, while assisting a man who needed open-heart surgery, Jon was cut with a medical instrument being used on the patient.
Jon called Mimi that night in Hawaii, where she then lived. Frightened, he told her he believed the man he had been helping was homosexual. Results from HIV tests for both Jon and the patient would take six months.
Mimi tried to soothe her son by telling him the patient might not have had AIDS and even if he did, there was a chance it wouldn't be transmitted to Jon.
Three hours later, Mimi received another call.
Jon, an avid hunter, had gone into his bedroom, put a shotgun under his chin and killed himself.
Jon's funeral was the first Mimi had ever planned. At the time, she said she could hardly bring herself to put on makeup, let alone arrange a funeral for her child.
Miller couldn't believe Jon was gone. Not until the funeral director allowed her to sit with his body not until she saw the distinctive tattoo on his upper arm could she really believe her son was dead.
Miller was directed to Compassionate Friends by a friend. There, she met Ardeth Weed.
Weed, who lost a daughter to a drunken driver, took Miller helped her cope with her loss.
By spending time with Weed and attending Compassionate Friends meetings in Honolulu when she could, Miller slowly built a new life: a life without Jon.
After moving to Tuolumne County about a year and a half ago, Miller continued to attend Compassionate Friends meeting in the Manteca and Modesto areas and a small group who meet in St. Patrick's Church.
She and thousands of other parents across the world will have the chance to acknowledge their children publicly at the candle-lighting ceremony. It begins in New Zealand and continues across the time zones.
The Manteca chapter of Compassionate Friends will hold a candle-lighting ceremony at 7 p.m. Dec. 8 at Arroyo Mocho Elementary School, 1040 Florence Road, Livermore. Miller has said she would like to hold a ceremony here, but there is no local chapter, and she's not sure where to ask people to meet.
Anyone interested in holding a local ceremony or forming a local chapter, call Miller at 588-8809.