Sarah Cotton with her daughters Chloe (left) and Aubrey (right) taken in October 2017. (Photo Ryan MacDonald Photography)

VIDEO: A thousand come out to honour two B.C. girls found dead Christmas Day

Mourners gather in massive Victoria cathedral

Church bells tolled as Christ Church Cathedral filled to capacity today for the service honouring the lives of six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey Berry, two young sisters found dead on Christmas Day in their father’s Oak Bay apartment.

The first few rows of pews held close friends and family including the girls’ mother, Sarah Cotton, and many of the girls’ young friends from school. There was a sea of bright polka dot ribbons attached to lapels. Pictures of the girls were placed around the cathedral with flowers and boxes of kleenex. It was a difficult day for a tight community trying to come to terms with a loss of such magnitude.

Reverend Canon Susanne House set the tone of the ceremony by saying that it was a service of hope – hope for our children, and hope for ourselves.

Touching and personal stories were shared by people close to the family, stories that conjured laughter and tears.

The choirs and musicians filled the cathedral with songs chosen personally by Cotton.

Family friend Sandra Hudson gave the eulogy, sharing loving and humourous stories of Chloe and Aubrey Berry.

The Very Reverend M. Ansley Tucker offered guidance to the reeling community.

“Our whole life compass has been scrambled,” said Rev. Tucker. “We will be changed forever but the question is how we change. And that is up to us.”

After the service, the community filed into the Christ Church Cathedral School gym where Chloe attended school. A circle of hugs and support encircled Sarah Cotton in the room decorated with rainbow coloured roses.

“We’ve taken a lot of care in planning over the last 10 days or so,” said family spokesperson Trisha Lees ahead of today’s public memorial service.

As expected by organizers, close to a thousand people flowed through the front doors of the church for the 11 a.m. service to celebrate the sisters.

Christ Church Cathedral School, where Chloe attended Grade 1, released the students today and the gymnasium was open for the reception following the service.

While Chloe attended Willows elementary for kindergarten, she loved her new school Lees said.

“She really loved this school, she really thrived here,” Lees said. “The thing she was talking about most was learning French.”

“My most favourite memories of them are a series of them really, where we spent time at the beach,” Lees told the Oak Bay News. “They lived particularly close to Willows Beach and I have two little daughters as well so we would spend time on that beach all of us. Kids on a beach there’s nothing not to love about that.”

Andrew Berry, the girls’ father, faces two charges of second-degree murder.

“In times of such immense and overwhelming grief, no words can make sense of this tragic loss of life and its impact on a family, a community and a city,” said the Very Reverend Ansley Tucker of Christ Church Cathedral, ahead of the service. “The service provides an opportunity to shoulder each other’s pain, to plant the seeds of hope, and to commend two little girls to the safe keeping of God.”

A scholarship in memory of Chloe and Aubrey has been set up through the Victoria Foundation to provide scholarships to children attending Christ Church Cathedral School. Making a donation in support of the Chloe and Aubrey Berry Scholarship Fund can be done by phone (250-381-5532), cheque, or online.

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Christ Church Cathedral, one of Canada’s largest churches, not only accommodated the large community turnout but also has a close connection to the family. Six-year-old Chloe attended Grade 1 at Christ Church Cathedral School that sits on the corner of the cathedral grounds. (Keri Coles/Oak Bay News)

Christ Church Cathedral, one of Canada’s largest churches, not only accommodated the large community turnout but also has a close connection to the family. Six-year-old Chloe attended Grade 1 at Christ Church Cathedral School that sits on the corner of the cathedral grounds. (Keri Coles/Oak Bay News)

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