For the little girl who loved to sing, there was a choir and music and hundreds of voices all raised in song, calling out messages of strength and faith.
They came from Puerto Rico, from Canada, from New York, from all of the neighbouring towns and cities to remember Ana Grace Marquez-Greene, the six-year-old girl who could outdance anyone and who loved performing with her older brother.
Under cold grey skies and tiny flakes of snow on Saturday, they arrived at First Cathedral, a mega-church outside Hartford, where a 3,000-seat sanctuary was nearly full.
Just six months ago, Ana and her family returned to their home state of Connecticut after spending three years in Manitoba. They settled in Newtown.
Saturday’s ceremony for Ana was one of the three final funerals for the 27 people murdered there on Dec. 14, twenty of them children.
At sunset, state authorities returned official U.S. flags in Connecticut from half-staff to their full height, marking the conclusion to a bleak sequence of farewells over recent days.
At religious services Sunday in Newtown, parishioners stood and applauded the church leaders who helped them cope. And those leaders acknowledged their own pain. “This has been the worst week of my life,” said Monsignor Robert Weiss of the St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, which lost eight children and two adults in the massacre.
For Ana, her family did not want a sombre farewell. They called her funeral a “Homegoing Celebration.” There were videos of Ana – one featured her singing I’m a Little Teapot – and passionate tributes by four pastors.
And there was music, attendees said. A church choir sang. A string quartet performed Elgar’s Enigma Variations. A man with a guitar played Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.
Harry Connick Jr., the pianist and singer, performed a piece he wrote, paying tribute to Ana and her father, jazz saxophonist Jimmy Greene.
“At one point Jimmy stood up, reaching toward heaven,” said Linda Bozzi, who attended the service with her husband Gene, a musician who has played with Mr. Greene. “They are a tremendous, faith-filled family.”
Others said they were struck by the portrait that emerged of a little girl who was “just so loving,” said Nneka Reliford, 25. Someone related the story, she said, of how Ana would leave not one, but two notes for her parents: the first on top of their pillow and the second underneath it.
At 6, those who knew her said, she was already fiercely proud of the disparate strands of her identity: African-American, Puerto Rican, a little bit Irish.
And in some ways, a small bit Canadian, for the country where she spent half of her too-brief life. The family arranged for the service to be shown Saturday on a live satellite feed thousands of kilometres away at Grant Memorial Baptist Church in Winnipeg.
Reverend Terry Janke of Whyte Ridge Baptist Church in Winnipeg spoke at Saturday’s ceremony in Connecticut, comparing the trials of Ana’s family to those suffered by Job in the Bible, said Heather Jackson, a local resident.
The unimaginable anguish in Newtown really “hits home,” said Ms. Jackson. “It could have been anybody’s child.”
Outside the church, a white carriage draped with flowers, pulled by two large, pale horses awaited Ana’s small coffin.
Taped to a tree down the street, there was a message on a large white sign. “Remembering Ana Marquez-Greene,” it read, in pink and purple letters, decorated with flowers and hearts. “Love wins.”
With a report from Associated Press
WAYS TO HONOUR ANA AND HELP THE MARQUEZ-GREENE FAMILY Ana’s parents, Jimmy Greene and Nelba Márquez-Greene, have asked that donations in her memory be made to one’s choice of three funds:
- The Ana Grace Márquez-Greene Family Therapy Fund , care of the Outpatient Clinic/Family Therapy Institute, Klingberg Family Centers, 370 Linwood St, New Britain, CT 06052
- The Artist’s Collective, 1200 Albany Avenue, Hartford, CT 06112
- The Ana Grace Márquez-Greene Music Scholarship Fund , care of Western Connecticut State University, Office of Institutional Advancement, 181 White St., Danbury, CT, 06810
In addition, friends have set up a fund to support the Marquez-Greene family.
In Canada, the following option is also available to participate in honouring Ana:
- The Ana Grace Márquez-Greene Memorial Bursary , care of The University of Winnipeg Foundation, 901 – 491 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada R3B 2E4