Memorial celebrates teens’ lives
Hundreds of community members celebrated the lives of Alex and Macaila Marshall Saturday at the Bret Harte High School stadium in Angels Camp.
Participants focused on the positive impact the siblings had on everyone around them during their lives.
Alex and Macaila, who both attended Bret Harte High School, were killed by their father at his home in Forest Meadows Feb. 1 in an apparent double murder suicide, according to the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office.
Sean Hale, Bret Harte High School student body president, began Saturday’s ceremony by welcoming all those in attendance. Pastor Dusty Bach shared words of encouragement throughout the ceremony. Superintendent Michael Chimente said the community has been trying to “make sense out of a senseless act.”
“We are all gathered here today, realizing how precious life is and how suddenly it can end,” Chimente said. “Alex and Macaila, you may be gone, but your memories will always live in our hearts.”
Paula Alter, Alex and Macaila’s aunt, presented the eulogy with heartfelt remarks about her niece and nephew’s lives.
Brice Giplin sang “You are My Sunshine,” accompanied by Johnny Sidorvich. Chris Muetterties, Shawn Westburg and Shawn McCamey read passages of scripture.
Erika Rasmussen joined Wyatt Hockett in reading messages written by students to Alex and Macailia.
Alex and Macaila’s mother, Sean Marshall, spoke near the end of the ceremony while surrounded by friends, family and her “babies” – a group of students who stayed at her home for the past week lending support and love during this difficult time.
When Marshall first stepped up to the podium, she gazed out at the hundreds of faces for a moment.
“I just want to take a minute to look out at all of this love and all you people who have reached out to our family making sure all of our friends were taken care of, making sure I was taken care of. You’ve been an amazing community.”
She thanked all the students from Calaveras High School for the “heart” they have shown and for reaching out to Bret Harte.
Marshall, who was traveling in Turkey when she was informed her children had been killed, told the community of her journey over the past week, while offering a positive outlook on the tragedy.
“Being in Turkey and getting the news, it was almost unbearable,” she said.
“When I heard of this devastation, there are no words ever to explain the emotions, the hurt, the regrets,” she said. “I couldn’t hear God at that moment. I couldn’t hear his answers why, why would you do this? Why them? Why me?”
On the morning of her departure from Turkey, she was standing on a cobblestone street with “so much hurt and a wrenched heart,” as she waited to be taken to the airport.
“Two little birds flew down around at my feet,” she said, indicating they reminded her of Alex and Macaila. “All I heard was, ‘It’s amazing. You can’t believe this place.’ It was as if they were describing the ultimate playground. They do not hurt, they only feel joy, they only feel love.”
“They are not RIP,” she said with a smile. “There is no rest in heaven. They are rockin’ in paradise.”
Marshall said it is much more difficult for all those who are left behind.
“It’s the hardest for us, down here, grieving – things we didn’t say, the hugs we didn’t give. Did they know we loved them? They know.
“So in those times when I have those questions, I sit still and I ask, and they answer,” she said. “I feel Alex and Macaila with me. I feel Alex has just sent a web of love to wrap all of you in, and Macaila’s courage and her strength and her laughter will be with all of you forever.”
Instead of dwelling on the tragedy, Marshall encouraged community members to focus on the example her children set.
“I hope and I wish that for all of you, you would take Alex and Macaila as an example,” she said. “Hug everyone, love everyone, be kind.”
While her life will never be the same, Marshall said it has been the love of the children who spent the past week with her that has allowed her to find a sense of peace.
“They have healed me, they have loved me. They have called me ‘Mama Seaney.” You all should be so proud of these kids,” she told the community. “They are miraculous. They have all assured me that I will be invited to graduations, weddings and be there for the birth of their children.”
Shortly after she finished speaking, hundreds of people took balloons and walked to the center of the football field.
Marshall said the balloons were part of a ritual she’s participated in throughout her life when sending someone off to heaven.
Alex and Macaila’s names were said three times and balloons were sent skyward, soaring higher and higher until they disappeared into the blue sky.
“Thank you again,” Marshall said. “I love all of you. Every face. Every person.”
Contact Joel Metzger at email@example.com