`Day of sadness and mourning and loss'

Hundreds pack church to honor lives of two children killed by fire

December 16, 2007|By Sumathi Reddy | Sumathi Reddy,Sun reporter

There were two caskets, leaving one after the other, a brother and a sister laid to rest.

Hundreds filed into Second Presbyterian Church yesterday to honor the brief lives of Mary Abigail, 11, and Matthew Sam Young, 16, better known as Abby and Matt. The two were killed by a fire at their Roland Park home.

Friends and family members, young and old, packed the church, spilling into hallways and two overflow areas, where four large monitors projected the service.

The Rev. Thomas W. Blair proclaimed it "a day of sadness and mourning and loss."

The children's father, Stephen A. Young, a deputy copy desk chief at The Sun, was unable to attend the service. He remained in the intensive care unit at Sinai Hospital yesterday, battling pneumonia he contracted after suffering smoke inhalation and a broken hip in the fire.

Blair urged mourners "to continue our prayers for Steve."

The Young family's Roland Park home was burned Dec. 6, killing Abby Young, a sixth-grader at Calvert School in North Baltimore, that day. Matthew, a 10th-grader at Park School in Brooklandville, died at Sinai two days later.

The children's mother, Nancy Young, a lawyer with the Maryland attorney general's office, escaped the fire without injuries.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Yesterday Nancy Young was joined by her older daughters, Laura, a teacher in Brooklyn, N.Y., who graduated in May from Yale University, and Carrie, a freshman at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

Music filled the church, from the soft voices of Calvert School students singing "Silhouette Child" to a recording of Matthew playing with the Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra and camp songs from Camp Merrie-Woode, which Abby attended.

A blown-up picture of a smiling Abby dancing in yellow pajamas and a Santa Claus hat was propped up in the front of the church. Nearby stood a picture of Matt at the beach, waving and smiling against a bright-blue sky.

The duo were remembered as precocious and friendly children, free spirits who excelled in school and sports and making their family and friends laugh.

Abby was anything but a "girlie girl," a mastermind of crazy plots, a little girl who loved candy and always had a sly, knowing smile on her face.

Matt was an exemplary student who loved The Simpsons and dancing, a teenager who donated the money he won in a writing contest to the memorial fund of a boy who died of cancer.

She liked to punch him playfully in the arm. He would ruffle her hair or give her a squeeze in response.

Laura and Carrie Young remembered their brother and sister as their playmates and secret-keepers, the young brother who would cheer them up sleeping on a mattress in their room and the sister who was generous with her hugs and phone calls.

"We learned more from Abby than we could have ever taught her," Carrie Young said.

Carrie Young remembered her sister's admission interview at Calvert School. When the admissions woman asked her if she could find her nose, she did so, then turned around and proclaimed, "That's stupid."

When the older sisters and brother once asked her to pick her favorite sibling, she smiled her knowing smile and hugged the television, Laura Young recalled.

Carrie Young spoke of how her brother got the same SAT scores when he was an eighth-grader as she got as a high school student - and she took the test seven times. "He was humble and mature about his gift, and I was nothing but proud," she said.

Laura Young said their grandmother once noted that in family pictures they were always clinging to each other. "We can't let go of each other," she said. "It's our job from now on to live our lives as a tribute to them."

In his eulogy for Abby, Blair spoke of her "Mona Lisa" smile, one that reflected that she knew "something we don't know."

He recalled how she considered dressing up as Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, then as a "nerdy gangster" and finally decided to be a Calvert School student for Halloween this year. "There was a very special wit about her," he said.

The Rev. Jennifer DiFrancesco spoke about Matt's characteristics as a leader.

He was a gifted student and cellist, "a guy who could argue any point and win, all the while being humble," she said.

When a 7-year-old boy at camp was homesick, Matt got a group of pretty girls to dance with him.

Both children were baptized in May. Matt was one of three youths who volunteered to describe what it means to be united, DiFrancesco said. Matt wrote of the experience of a student at Calvert who died of cancer.

"`Never had I seen nor have I seen since the kind of unity that I witnessed in sixth grade,'" DiFrancesco said, quoting Matt's words. "`It was something that created a bond between us all.

"` ... In every single one of us was the hope, empathy and compassion that God and our families had instilled in us,'" she read.

"I pray that Matt's hope for the world remains with each of us," DiFrancesco said.

With that, the notes of a violinist playing "Ave Maria" filled the church. Heads bowed as the final prayers were read.

"We pray that we might embody the best of Abby and Matt," Blair said. "That we might live up to their expectation in our lives."

The Park School choir sang the final song, "Precious Lord." A bell rang three times.

The organ sounded as one casket, and then the other, were taken down the aisle and outside the church, as hundreds of people behind them sobbed and silently made their way outside.

sumathi.reddy@baltsun.com

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