The reverent singing of Christmas carols reverberated throughout the Orem Cemetery on Monday night as people gathered to remember those that have died, through song.
The community caroling was organized by Jaicee Roden whose son, Jay, died in October. Jay, who was just 9 months old at the time of his passing, was born with a rare genetic disorder called trifunctional protein deficiency, which meant his body couldn’t metabolize certain nutrients.
Roden said she wanted to gather people to honor their loved ones that have passed away and remember them this holiday season.
“Normally it (Christmas) has been about the birth of Christ and presents and Santa, but this year it’s a bit different. I realized lots of people are having the same struggle we are having.”
Several dozen people bundled in heavy coats, hats and gloves gathered in the Veterans Memorial of the cemetery and sang a variety of traditional carols including “Jingle Bells,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
Roden said she was prompted to organize the event when she saw a family in the cemetery one day when she was visiting Jay’s resting spot. It was the emotions she saw on the faces of that family that touched her. That’s when it clicked about how many people there were missing someone this time of year.
Roden said Jay taught her to be happy and kind despite how difficult it may be for their family right now.
“In honor of Jay, we’ve really tried to find joy and be happy during this time,” she said. “As we visit the cemetery very regularly, I learned we aren’t the only ones that mourn loss and wish we could spend the holidays with some we love.”
Jay went into heart failure in the end of June but continued to fight for several months. Roden said she and her family worked to make sure that Jay felt their love and care even though he was in the hospital.
“During his life, he was happy and knew love and knew joy and knew what complete adoration of his parents was like and although he was sick, he knew all those things,” Roden said.
Roden teamed up with the city of Orem to be able to hold such an event. Mayor Richard Brunst was in attendance and spoke before the caroling started.
Brunst said he felt it was important to gather as a community and celebrate the Christmas season while honoring those who have passed away.
“I think it’s important for the residents to celebrate Christmas and celebrate this young man’s life,” he said. “We are happy to do it and I’m happy to be here as part of the city and to be with the residents and celebrate this family.”
Orem resident Matt Warner was one of the many people who attended. He said his daughter, who attends Mountain View High School where Roden coaches volleyball, heard about the event at school and they decided to show their support.
“(During the caroling) I felt a great peace and a gratitude for being alive in this great country,” Warner said.