LEWISTON, Maine — Friends and family who gathered Friday afternoon for Hilary Saenz’s funeral shared stories about the upbeat way she lived her life, while wearing purple as a silent symbol of the tragic way the 29-year-old mother of two died.
Many at Friday’s hourlong service at Pathway Vineyard Church wore sweaters, scarves and ribbons in various shades of purple, a request of the family to mark domestic violence. Police have charged Saenz’s husband, 30-year-old Christopher Saenz, with the murder of his wife, who was found dead on Christmas Day in their home.
On Friday afternoon, no mention was made of the circumstances — only of the untimely death of the much-loved daughter, sister and mother of two.
Her father, David Brown, sobbed while telling the hundreds of people who attended about smile-inducing texts his daughter would send him throughout the day.
Friends since childhood, Maegan Kaye recalled Saenz forging notes for the school bus driver so they could spend afternoons together at Saenz’s home.
Her 8-year-old son, Chris Saenz, remembered that his mother’s favorite show was “I Love Lucy,” and her favorite color was pink.
Most of all, those who spoke Friday at her funeral remembered the bright, cheerful smile of the 29-year-old Ellsworth woman who died on Christmas Day.
“All you had to do was look at her and you’d be happy,” her father told the hundreds of friends and family gathered to mourn — and celebrate — Saenz’s life.
To the sounds of “Amazing Grace” and “Candle in the Wind,” photos of Saenz were projected on overhead screens. Among them were images of the young mother as an infant, a teenager with permed hair, dressed as a cat on Halloween and cuddling her 12-year-old daughter, Alyana.
And in each photo, Saenz’s smile shone.
Saenz, who attended school in Bowdoin and Topsham, was employed at Eastern Maine Medical Center and Walmart in Ellsworth.
“That smile just would change your whole day,” said a co-worker from Walmart, speaking from her seat in the large auditorium. She recalled Saenz’s pride in her children, and in obtaining her GED and attending nursing school.
“Out of all the moms, God gave me the best one,” Alyana Saenz wrote in a program handed out at the service.
“Everywhere I look, I see her,” her son wrote. “She is the biggest star in the sky now.”
A candlelight vigil to help the community where she lived cope with Saenz’s death is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. Sunday outside City Hall in Ellsworth.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.