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Yeardley Love funeral: Thousands of mourners gather to remember U-Va. student

By Jenna Johnson, Steve Yanda and Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 9, 2010; C01

Nearly 2,000 mourners joined hands and lifted their voices Saturday morning, not in prayer but in a cheer, filling a Baltimore cathedral with an inspirational chant once uttered by Yeardley Love on a lacrosse field.

Leading the cheer for the slain lacrosse player was Julie Myers, Love's coach at the University of Virginia, who helped celebrate Love's life in a funeral Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.

Myers recalled fondly that the Cavaliers would take turns leading the pregame cheer, "1-2-3, together, Hoos," invoking a team nickname. One day, when it was Love's turn, she counted to four.

Saturday morning, Myers counted to four. The congregation responded as one: "Together, Hoos."

From now on, Myers said, the Cavaliers will always count to four.

Love was "truly remarkable," she said, "not because she tried to be, but because she just was. It came easy for her to be great, to be kindhearted, welcoming, encouraging and engaging to all who knew her. She was legitimately awesome."

Love, 22, was found dead Monday in her apartment near the campus in Charlottesville. Police have charged George Huguely, 22, a U-Va. men's lacrosse player and former boyfriend. Investigators say he shook her violently during an argument on the night of her death, slamming her head against a wall. Huguely's attorney has said Love's death was an accident.

On Saturday, congregants overflowed from the pews into the aisles of the cavernous cathedral, which seats 1,400. The Love family sat at the front. Behind them were rows of students from Notre Dame Prep, the Towson girls' school Love attended, and other Love relatives.

The crowded church was a sea of matching colors and letters, ribbons and pins. Some Notre Dame students wore their school uniform, white-collared blue dresses with black-and-white loafers. One contingent wore the brown and orange of Landon School, the Bethesda boys' school that Huguely had attended. Another group wore blue and black ribbons with the initials "YL." Some pews were dotted with orange and navy, the colors of U-Va.

Recalling Love's life

The call to worship came from Mary Bartel, athletics director and varsity lacrosse coach at Notre Dame Prep. She directed the audience to sing loudly, as "Yeards" would, prompting a round of laughter.

Later, Myers recounted the night Love and her roommates attempted to prepare their first dinner, which they managed to set on fire.

The candle used in Love's baptism flickered on the altar throughout the service. The congregation sat mostly quiet, save for the occasional muted sniffle or rustle of tissue. At one point, as the congregation sang the words "In the shadows of night/I will be your light," a young woman burst into tears.

A procession of women recited prayers for Love's friends and teammates, seldom reaching the end of a reading without choking back tears. One read a prayer for mothers who have lost their children, a poignant tribute on the eve of Mother's Day.

Throughout the service, speakers referred to Love as Yeards (pronounced Yards), a fond nickname.

In his homily, the Rev. Joseph Breighner said Love was aptly named.

"Two thousand years ago, a young Jewish rabbi named Jesus died a senseless, violent death," Breighner said. "All he did and all he preached was love. This past week, a woman has died a senseless, violent death. Her name was Love. And love is what her life is all about."

Need to forgive

Breighner told congregants to accept all the stages of grief, "like anger and shock and denial." He also told them -- without naming Huguely -- how important it is to forgive.

"We do need to remember some things that Jesus spoke from the cross. As he hung on the cross, he forgave his executioners: 'Father, forgive them. They don't know what they're doing,' " Breighner said.

"At some point, we will have to forgive someone. Today may not be that day. It may not come for many days. But we will have to forgive, because it is the only way to heal."

Members of U-Va.'s men's lacrosse team served as some of the pallbearers. Sharon and Lexi Love, Yeardley's mother and sister, walked ahead of the red coffin, which was draped in a sheer white pall.

After the service, the hearse carrying Love's body departed for a private burial, trailed by three black limousines.

Mourners left clutching the funeral program, its cover featuring a photograph of a young Love dressed as an angel. Beneath that was the quote for which she wished to be remembered in her senior high school yearbook:

"Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget."

Special correspondent Christian Swezey contributed to this report.

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