FARMINGTON — For many grieving families, the holidays can be the most difficult time of the year, but funeral homes around San Juan County came together Thursday evening to show mourners that they are not alone.

Families who have lost a loved one were invited to participate in an annual Lights of Remembrance service at Brewer, Lee and Larkin Funeral Home in Farmington. The service was hosted by Alternative Choice Funeral and Cremation, Brewer Lee and Larkin Funeral Home, the Cope Memorial Chapels of Aztec, Farmington and Kirtland and Memory Gardens cemetery.

"We have a good turn out every single year," said Elizabeth Conlee, a Memory Gardens employee who sent out invitations this year.

From left, Amber Swenk, Sara Dean and Debbie Klein sing during the Lights of Remembrance service on Thursday at Brewer, Lee and Larkin Funeral Home in
From left, Amber Swenk, Sara Dean and Debbie Klein sing during the Lights of Remembrance service on Thursday at Brewer, Lee and Larkin Funeral Home in Farmington. (Jon Austria /The Daily Times)

Even before the event, people called the cemetery and funeral homes to find out if the annual service was still happening this year, Conlee said.

"They need to meet other people who are going through the same thing," she said.

At Thursday's service, Kirtland resident Tina Golbe held a picture of her late sons, Lane and Lance.

Two weeks after Lance was born in 1990, Golbe took him to the doctor because he had jaundice. The doctor placed him under a special light to treat the jaundice, but the light burned him, and Lance was diagnosed with xeroderma pigmentosum, or XD, a type of skin cancer, his mother said.

Golbe said Lance could never go out into the sun because it would kill him. Doctors also warned that her son wouldn't live past 10. He defied doctor's expectations, but, in November 2002, Lance died at age 12.

Last month, he would have turned 23, his mother said.

In addition to Lance, Golbe and her husband had three other children. Their youngest son, Lane, was born Dec. 18, 1999. On May 23, 2000, Golbe received news from her doctor that both Lane and her 1-year-old daughter, Laronda, also tested positive for XD.

Manuel Maez writes down the name of his uncle, Robert Maez, on a Christmas tree ornament during the annual Lights of Remembrance service on Thursday at
Manuel Maez writes down the name of his uncle, Robert Maez, on a Christmas tree ornament during the annual Lights of Remembrance service on Thursday at Brewer, Lee and Larkin Funeral Home in Farmington. (Jon Austria /The Daily Times)

"I had to grow up fast as a mom to keep them healthy and out of the sun," Golbe said.

Lane died in 2011. Laronda, now 16, is a student at Kirtland Central High School. The couple's other daughter, who is now 20, does not have the skin cancer.

Golbe said that as far as she knows Laronda is the only person in San Juan County with XD.

Golbe said she believes that God gave her the children she had for a reason.

"God doesn't give you more than you can handle," she said.

Golbe attended the service for the first time this year. Before the service, she wrote on a pair of ornaments for Lane and Lance that she missed her sons' smiles. She hung those ornaments on a Christmas tree in the lobby.

After the program, Golbe said that she enjoyed the service.

"I really liked the music and the message that they had," she said.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.