In a washed-out video projected on the wall of Bethany United Methodist Church at her memorial service Saturday, Rose Louese Mayr tumbled and fluttered in a dance portrayal of a girl with her eyes turned toward God.
The dance put on display one of the many talents family and friends ascribed to the 2010 Mount Hebron High School graduate, killed last week in an
train derailment along with longtime friend Elizabeth Conway Nass. Ms. Mayr's pastors said they hoped her performance would also offer mourners some comfort.
The Rev. Cathryn T. Vitek told the close to 500 people packed into the modest A-frame church to look to their faith like the girl in the video. The Rev. David W. Simpson urged them to lean on one another as they struggle with a young woman's tragic death — and a sadness that he likened to a slap in the face.
"These days have been steeped in sorrow and grief, steeped in questions and confusion, but they have also been steeped in family and community, coming together to support one another as best they know how," he said.
Ms. Mayr and Ms. Nass had been sitting on the edge of the railroad bridge over Main Street in Ellicott City when a CSX train toppled and buried the young women in coal. Both were 19.
On the dais next to bunches of white, pink and yellow flowers, Anna Mayr said her younger sister had the "voice of angel," belting out songs throughout their childhood home. Ms. Mayr could also play the songs she heard on the radio on the piano by ear, her sister said.
Anna Mayr said her sister was the master of hat tricks on the soccer field, an adventurer who had rappelled from waterfalls in Costa Rica and a reluctant doer of laundry.
Rose Mayr was about to begin her junior year at the
, where she was studying to be a nurse. There, her sister said, she pulled "95s and 97s." Over Christmas break her freshman year, Anna Mayr said, her sister was so excited to show off her skills with a stethoscope that she measured her family's pulse rate and respiration.
"My little Rosie," Anna Mayr said. "She was my Rose, my flower, someone who would brighten up the room. She was so full of joy, so easygoing, a free spirit. She was patient and kind."
The memories friends and families offered in recent days made "Rose alive again," said Anna Mayr, whose voice shook throughout her eulogy. In the front pew, her mother, Sharon, smiled and nodded in encouragement.
Jill Booth of Georgetown, Del., Ms. Mayr's college roommate, described all the plans her death left uncompleted.
"This year, we planned to move into our apartment and decorate our bathroom in gold and brown and bake all of the things we found on Pinterest.
"Our senior year, we planned to graduate and we wanted to be nurses, to make a difference, to help people."
Ms. Booth said she had wished for Ms. Mayr to have children as "rambunctious as she was."
"We would have remained close and started families," Ms. Booth said.
Mayr's former boyfriend, Boris Gamazaychikov, shared a poem he wrote for her.
"Sometimes I imagined we would grow old together. But now I'll grow old and you'll stay young in my heart forever. And I couldn't ever see you stuck behind a picket fence. You were too busy looking at the sky and the horizon to which it led.
"… And darkness slowly came, and stars lit up the sky. We swore we saw the Milky Way, dragging endlessly through time. But you were not this sun, slowly fading to the west. You were brighter than the stars when you were put to rest."
Mr. Simpson said it's natural to search for a meaning or an explanation in Ms. Mayr's tragic death.
"We want to know who's responsible and who's to blame. We want rationality. We want cause and effect and we want a fair universe. … None of the answers that we're able to come up with are ever going to be sufficient for us. For some questions, there simply are no answers."
Before a prayer that brought the hourlong service to a close, the two-minute video of Ms. Mayr's high school dance performance played behind the choir loft that served as overflow seating.
"My piece is about a girl who is struggling with self-acceptance and looking up to God for support," says Ms. Mayr, dressed in a black leotard and tights with her long brown hair in a ponytail. "Throughout my piece, I roll on the floor a lot, which symbolizes her constant downfalls. I look up to the ceiling to symbolize how I look to God for help."