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Joining in mourning

More than 1,000 turn out to pay respects to two young sisters

We feel held,” Susan Dieter-Robinson told the sanctuary full of people, “very, very held.”

After a week dealing with the tragic deaths of their two girls, the family of Anna Lucille Dieter-Eckerdt and Abigail Josephine Robinson ministered in Hillsboro Saturday to the larger community that grieves alongside them by celebrating the “love-drenched life” the two girls shared.by: COURTESY PHOTO: DIETER-ROBINSON FAMILY - The front page of the program at the Celebration of Life for two Forest Grove stepsisters featured their photo.

Turning from the horror of the Oct. 20 accident in Forest Grove — the two sisters were hit by a car and killed while playing under a pile of leaves that extended into the street — the family instead focused on joyful memories of the girls — sharing their faith in a power that transcends this Earth and throwing a party or sorts for all their friends.

Huge bouquets of colorful balloons at the front door of the expansive Sonrise Church on Northeast Campus Drive in Hillsboro welcomed people to a “celebration of life.” In the foyer, children were invited to create art that would later be bound into a keepsake book for the family. A collection of the girls’ favorite things — a cell phone, dance shoes, dolls, drawings, books — were displayed as playmates, neighbors and friends gathered to pay their respects.

Every chair in the 800-seat sanctuary was filled, with hundreds more standing along the walls and more seated in the foyer.

On stage sat two large portraits of the girls. On the right, 6-year-old Anna smiled in pink, a blue ribbon in her hair and her arm around Sampson, the family’s Labrador retriever. On the left, 11-year-old Abby looked over her shoulder, quietly smiling.

“Music,” said Tom Robinson, “was very important in our house. Abby played trombone and we danced a lot.”

Later in the ceremony, the audience got a chance to share in that tradition when Robinson, the father of Abby and stepfather of Anna, led those gathered in a prayerful song called “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord).”

Keeping with the theme of balancing the heartaches with memories, the Rev. Bob Fletcher read from the poem, “I Am Free.”

“If my parting has left a void,” he read, “then fill it with remembered joys.”

A slideshow did just that, with photo after photo of the girls’ joyful moments: learning to ride a bike, playing with dolls, licking frosting off kitchen utensils, reading “Curious George” to Sampson, picking out pumpkins, eating pizza with friends, learning to knit, building a snowman, feeding a baby a bottle, fishing, dancing, laughing around a campfire, the two girls fallen asleep in each others’ arms — and many, many photos of the smiling girls hugging people they loved.

“They were enveloped in love,” said their older sister, Emily Robinson, “and in turn they loved everybody.”

“They loved their friends,” added Susan. “All their friends.”

She spoke of special moments and things she will miss, especially their laughter and their dancing.

“I had the privilege of being there day to day. If you knew the girls,” she invited, “share with us, laugh with us, cry with us. They are looking down on us, and smiling.”

Near the end of the service, another pastor at Sonrise, Eric Schmitt, delivered a message of faith to those who gathered to celebrate the lives of Abby and Anna.

“Our life here is just a few brief moments,” Schmitt said. “They are with their maker. Death is not the end of the story for Anna and Abby. It is the beginning of real life.”

The celebration ended with Schmitt urging everyone to stand, cueing music and leading the whole room in dancing for Anna and Abby to the popular electronic song, “What Does the Fox Say?”

Afterward, while church members served ice cream and cookies, friends and family visited and children played — making art, getting their faces painted, watching magic tricks, jumping in a bounce house and running happily on the church lawn. What began with great sadness ended as another memory to cherish.

Jerry Mettee, also a pastor at the Sonrise campus in Hillsboro, said he was amazed at the response from so many people, even those who had never met Abby and Anna.

“It has been so amazing to watch the community in action this week,” Mettee said.

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