Community gathers in remembrance celebration

Annual GenCure Remembrance Celebration honors families of tissue donors
November 5, 2018

The themes at the annual GenCure Remembrance Celebration were simple: Darkness and light.

Around 125 tissue donor families, staff, and community at large attended the event led by Susan Smith, Grief Support and Life Legacies Manager at GenCure.

The celebration also included a guest speaker, Darwin Huartson, community coordinator from Porter Loring Mortuaries and a longtime grief and bereavement counselor.

Early on in the event, it became clear that the group was special.

“Tonight is a celebration of our loved ones, of us here, of families,” Susan said. “If you’re at a table with someone you don’t know, it’s no longer that. We’re now extended family.”


Darkness is light that hasn’t shown through yet

The light-and-darkness theme was symbolized using luminarias, a custom from vigils in which a candle is illuminated within a bag.

Participants drew or wrote words that reminded them of their loved ones on the bags. Darwin let people speak and share their memories of their child, parent, partner, sibling, cousin, step-family and/or in-law.


Emmanuel Casasola from QualTex Laboratories drew memories of playing guitar duets with his dad, along with one of the lyrics from one of the songs they used to play.

Afterward, luminarias illuminated the loved one’s words and images against a dark room, serving as points of light for others.


“Their light shines in the darkness,” Susan said. “The light is pushing back on the darkness. Light helps us hear the darkness.

“You’re helping each other find that light by being in this place tonight, so I encourage you to move from this place and continue to break through the darkness.”

Sharing a piece of your heart with everyone

After the vigil, Susan played a black-and-white video of the loved ones, with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” playing in the background. A moment of silence followed to remember loved ones who have passed, and those still alive.


Next came the unveiling of the memorial quilt made by the Greater San Antonio Quilt Guild. Six people were honored on the quilt: Jorge Bustos Jr., Norberto Leza, Joshua, Julie Lynne Maxey, Elias Richard Alcaraz and Lawrence Brandes.

Thanks for being the light, the hope and the way

Susan read a letter she received from someone who couldn’t attend:

Thank you for your card for the remembrance celebration. Sorry that I couldn’t respond sooner. My husband died May 2014 from a car accident. He traveled a lot between hospitals, nursing homes and home doing volunteer work. Strange things happen. One day, I received a phone call from a hospital from Houston. A patient was calling for my husband. The patient was dying and wanted to reach out to him. I started to remember this patient. He lived with us for a short time. It’s strange how events happened. I explained that my husband died, but I would say a prayer and light a candle for the gentleman that called. Doing volunteer work myself, we hope that we help or made an impact on their lives. Thank you.

Susan emphasized that everyone at the event has an impact.

“Some of our families were able to be tissue donors, organ or cornea donors. Some of our families were not. But they all made an impact,” she said. “You all are loved more than you ever imagine, and I want to thank you for being here tonight.”

We’ve got each other’s backs

To conclude the event, everyone formed a circle. After taking a few deep breaths in and out, the group said, “We’ve got each other’s backs.” Darwin ended with a prayer reminding each person that they offer strength and confidence to each other’s grief journey by being together.

The remembrance celebration is part of the GenCure Grief Support and Life Legacies program, which includes:

  • Monthly “Living with Grief” programs open to the public
  • A legacy garden on the BioBridge Global campus
  • Butterfly trees commemorating tissue donors and their families
  • Collaborative events with local organizations
  • Participation in a local bereavement group
  • Compassion fatigue sessions

For more information on the GenCure Living with Grief program, contact Susan Smith at 210-757-9428 or

More from our blog:

Wounds heal themselves with reprogrammed skin cells

Five foods to boost your platelet count naturally

Stems cells and arthritis