Grieving teens help each other carry on

Vancouver eighth-grader who took her own life was bullied at school, online, sister says

By Jacques Von Lunen, Columbian staff writer

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A sad evening at Cascade Middle School began and ended in song Thursday.

This little light of mine,

I’m gonna let it shine,

Let it shine, let it shine,

Let it shine.

Michelle Van Horn led the group of nearly 200 teenagers and parents in singing the old spiritual.

The group had gathered under the school’s awning to mourn Van Horn’s daughter, Eden, who took her own life Tuesday night. Eden was 14.

Around a makeshift memorial of photos, balloons and stuffed animals stood Eden’s friends and classmates. Teens clutched each other, sobbing, holding candles.

They spent the next hour exchanging memories of the eighth-grader. The kind words she had for a friend just days before her death. How she showed up in gym class wearing the shorts over her jeans. And how much they all missed Eden.

Her mother reminded the students that they had much to live for.

“Thank you for being here,” she said. “You are all beautiful.”

Several in the group, including Eden’s older sister, Audri, urged the students to be good to each other at school and to accept each other’s unique quirks.

Eden had been bullied at school and online, Audri and others said.

Everyone gathered at the memorial seemed to care for each other. Students went from group to group, offering hugs and encouraging words to those shaking with grief.

Audri told the young students to talk to someone if they felt desperate, depressed or threatened.

“Find a friend, an adult, anyone,” she said through her tears.

Fitting then, the song that drifted across the parking lot from the candlelit crowd shortly before the end of the vigil:

Lean on Me, if you’re not strong

And I’ll be your friend

I’ll help you carry on

Jacques Von Lunen: 360-735-4515; jacques.vonlunen@columbian.com;http://www.twitter.com/col_schools.