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Family, friends remember Estancia High student who died of cancer

Family, friends remember Estancia High student who died of cancer
Brian and Jenny Griffith watch a video montage during a memorial service for their daughter Emma Griffith at Rock Harbor Church on Saturday. (Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

One recent morning after Emma Griffith had died of cancer, her mother, Jenny, and aunt, Julie Castillo, talked about the beautiful girl who was just realizing her beauty as a young woman.

With her 18th birthday approaching Sept. 3, Emma had been displaying grace and love that would be perfect for a family of her own. The mother and aunt also talked about Emma, the athlete, who was realizing her strength and power before cancer took over her bones.

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More words of what might have been flowed, along with tears, when family and friends gathered for Emma's memorial at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa on Saturday afternoon, the Daily Pilot reported.

Emma, who played one season of girls' volleyball at Estancia High as a freshman, died Aug. 4 after a two-year battle with bone cancer. She was diagnosed with cancer after she thought she had suffered a hip injury.

Family and friends talked about the Emma before cancer and during her battle, when she displayed great strength and faith. They packed the church that had pictures of her smiling with friends and family in its lobby.

Many wept, smiled and laughed while talking about the girl who displayed elegant beauty with ease, yet was goofy and silly with friends. It seemed too difficult to smile, but they did.

There were items for guests to sign, including a surfboard. There were also pictures of her in her uniform at Estancia and also with her team in the Saddleback Valley Volleyball Club.

Her coach, Monty Johns, and teammates talked about how Emma was a great teammate who encouraged others and complimented them, rather than take the glory.

Emma's sister, Abby, who also played volleyball at Estancia, told those in attendance about her sister and best friend.

Abby, a sophomore rower at the University of Oklahoma, said that Emma would always say, "and one for Abby," because she wanted her older sister included for trips or visits to theme parks.

Family and friends also shared stories of Emma's faith in God. The service included songs of worship as well as a message of faith from Mark Weber.

In addition to faith, athletics has a strong presence in the Griffith family. Emma's father, Brian Griffith, was a punter at Louisiana State University.

Jenny Griffith was a star volleyball player at Newport Harbor and UCLA, where she was an All-American as an outside hitter. She also played for the U.S. women's national team and succeeded in beach volleyball.

Emma's younger brother, Josh, 16, is a 6-foot, 8-inch incoming sophomore who plays basketball and volleyball at Estancia.

Brian Griffith ended the memorial — which served more as a celebration of Emma's life — by thanking the many who supported the family and Emma.

He also shared a recording he secretly captured of his daughter singing.

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It was a fitting end to Saturday's memorial and another reminder of Emma's many talents.

Virgen is a reporter for Times Community News.

steve.virgen@latimes.com

Follow @SteveVirgen on Twitter.

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