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Memorial service for Jenise Wright draws large crowd
Family members, various law enforcement and searchers, friends and folks who had never met Jenise Wright, but were touched by her tragic death, turned up at the 6-year-old girl's memorial service this past Saturday.
The service was held at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Silverdale and was overseen by Bishop Chris Byron, who has spent a lot of time with Jenise's parents, James and Denise Wright, over the last couple of weeks.
"I sat with James and Denise in those quiet and tearful moments after they discovered how Jenise had died," Byron said. "And where I expected to hear anguish and anger, I heard compassion for another mother and a family. I went that day to teach and instead was taught."
"How will you honor the memory of this little girl," Byron later asked those in attendance. "Will you leave today with hate in your heart for the actions of another person or will you let go of that awful burden and begin to find forgiveness in your heart?"
During the service, Denise talked about her daughter one time sneaking six popsicles out of the house.
"She found a group of kids and said, 'Here, you can have one; my mom said you can have one,'" Denise recalled.
Jenise also liked to crash barbecues at neighbors' homes.
"She would say, 'My mom said I could have that hot dog," Denise recalled.
Then there was the time Jenise took a couple of boxes of cereal out of the family home to have a picnic with everybody in the park.
"That was Jenise, so giving and loving," Denise said.
Jenise's father, James, said he was at a loss for words to express his gratitude to law enforcement and others involved in the search for his daughter. He also thanked the wider community for its support.
"It's not without each and every one of your prayers and thoughts, your kindness and tenderness, that gives us the strength to persevere," he said.
Three of Jenise's older sisters each fought through tears during the service to read letters that they wrote to Jenise.
Coralise Almojera described Jenise as a "magnificent, wonderful, overly sassy, outgoing, independent little girl."
"It's hard to wake up, let alone find the strength to keep going," Almojera added. "It's like I'm empty inside without you here. A piece of my heart has been completely ripped out and is missing. But, I find my strength to keep going because I see your wonderful smile and I know I need to be here for our family and that makes me want to keep going so I do it for you."
Almojera said she was sad that Jenise didn't have a full life, but maybe God was waiting for Jenise to return home.
"I know you are in heaven smiling down watching us," she said. "I just ask you to please help guide us in the right direction to help us always keep love in our hearts, to help us always stick together as a family and that we learn to someday forgive. I love you Boo and I can't wait to see you. I hope you're having fun flying with the angels and all of our family in heaven."
Melanie Davis recalled her shock upon learning from her mom that she was pregnant with Jenise. The shock, though, gave way to joy as Davis got to take care of her little sister.
"It kills me inside that you won't be able to grow up, go to college and make something of your life," Davis said, noting that it is hard to move beyond her pain.
"I'm not going to lie about how I feel about this," she said. "I'm torn up inside that this happened to you. I never imagined that this could happen to us, especially you."
Davis said she wants Jenise to charm everyone in heaven with her "awesome personality."
Skye Wright talked about Jenise wearing a dress or glasses to seem more like Skye and her other older siblings.
"I remember the time you came home and said to me, 'Can you do my makeup for me? I just want you to make me a superstar so I can look beautiful like mom,'" Skye said.
Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer also spoke at the service for Jenise. He urged "those present and present in spirit" to leave anger behind, in individual ways, to find solace in community healing.
"It is natural to be angry, but keeping it bottled up forever is liking drinking poison and expecting bad things to happen to other person," he said. "It does no good."
Boyer also acknowledged that it isn't always to respond to anger with kindness, but it's the best way to find peace.
"I choose not to think of Jenise's passing and to think of her as a beautiful flower," he said. "Sometimes, the most beautiful flowers in our world, the ones that create joy and wonder, are also the ones that are the most fragile and we are blessed with their presence for only a brief moment in time. Bless you Jenise."