Our hearts have been filled with overwhelming sadness and compassion for the family of 15-year-old Alliy Bayliss since Wednesday .
With every blue ribbon we pass, tied around hundreds of posts throughout many neighborhoods in Danville, our tears of grief remind us of how blue we feel.
Blue, azul, the color of the sea and sky, was Alliy's favorite color and the predominant color used in most of her artwork. The work was on display in the halls of , where thousands streamed into the service organized by the Bayliss family, with an outpouring of help from friends and the community.
As if the sea and sky met without borders, so did the horizon of the more than 2,000 people in the sanctuary and gym — where the service was simulcast for the overflow of people. We celebrated the amazing and full life of a young woman who impacted an entire community and beyond.
The program handed to us as we walked in had a beautiful “Starry Night” design created by Alliy (see photo). In the painting, a young girl wears red, standing on a hillside, looking out into the vastness of stars and moonlight. Alliy was also wearing red the day she was last seen alive in Danville.
Lyrics from songs were framed on the back of the program, such as “There is still a light that shines on me," "Shine until tomorrow" and "Let it be,” with a photo of Alliy and her younger sister and two younger brothers.
After listening to friends, family and teachers speak, it was clear that her light will continue to shine for a very long time.
They all described Alliy as conscientious, loving, giving and selfless. She was also said to be a perfectionist, not only with her academics, but in the need to make sure everyone around her felt loved and special.
Many who spoke apologized for failing to somehow make sure Alliy felt special. It was a lesson for all of us to learn moving forward from this tragedy, to make a point to let the people around us know we care, not only through words but in our actions, too.
John Donavin, a family friend, said Alliy would devour the books from his house, taking them home in bags, then returning them with her notes of feedback or even a sticky note warning, "May not be appropriate," for his daughter, who is Alliy's age. People laughed, knowing that as a voracious reader Alliy read more and knew more and also wanted to share her knowledge and concern for others.
She even timed another swimmer's laps, to help her qualify for nationals, said Alliy's swimming coach.
For me, the most moving part was when Pamela Vamvouris spoke. I was proud of my colleague and friend from , Alliy’s fifth-grade teacher, then when she, in typical “Mrs. Vamvouris fashion” asked for us to not only listen but do something “hands on.”
“Today we are gathered to celebrate Alliy’s amazing life, so please take the hand of the person sitting to your right and to your left and hold it tight and feel the energy of love and compassion of this community,” she said.
You could hear a pin drop, as she added — “and know that you are never alone.”
Isn’t it true that all that matters is we have a sense of belonging?
We wonder, as we look out into our world. Am I seen? Am I heard? Does what I say and do matter?
If tears at the memorial were any indication whatsoever, Alliy was heralded in our hearts as someone who definitely mattered.
We cried, for the loss of this bright, intelligent, has-everything-going-for-her young woman that left in the middle of her song.
We still cry, for the Bayliss family. We pray for their strength and for them to know that they are not alone in this journey of grief as they continue to rebuild their lives.
We also cry for our community as the hole in the heart of Danville remains. And we cry as parents, children, teens, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, friends and neighbors, because we know that moving forward, we want to do a better job of reaching out to those we love, letting them know they matter.
Nick Vleisides, a friend of the Bayliss family and pastor at the service, often spoke directly to the Chamber Choir. The group beautifully sang “To Where You Are” by Josh Groban, about how important each of us are and how much we need to love each other.
Vleisides asked, “We have learned how precious life is, yes?” To which a resounding set of “yeses” hushed amongst us all.
From the solo “Angel” performed by Taylor Talbot to the song created just for Alliy by the White family “Do You Know How Special You Are?” the music intertwined beautifully and sang to the deepest parts of our hearts.
Nothing was more heartfelt than to have Alliy’s recorded piano solos accompany a slideshow of her life, with friends and family, particularly the last song, “My Heart Will Go On.”
It was obvious that Alliy had many, many talents but amongst the one that is clear to us all … to be challenged and teach others. As we go forward, we will be naturally challenged by life itself but what is one of many lessons Alliy has taught us all?
Alliy's light will continue to shine on all of us, and with that, we need to shine on.
Pamela Vamvouris illuminated Alliy’s life with the following poem:
Angel of Light, Alliy so Bright
Your eyes full of wonder, your mind always hungered
Your smile expressed happiness, your actions showed greatness
You were always so giving, your life was worth living
I’ll never understand why, you had to say good-bye
But, thank you for blessing us, with your beautiful life
The "Allison Bayliss Donation Fund Account" has been set up to help further Alliy's interests. Contributions can be made by visiting any Wells Fargo Bank.
There on Wednesday, June 1 at 6:30 p.m. at Maria Maria restaurant in Danville. Alma Desnuda, a Bay Area band with three of four band members from Danville, will perform. Tickets are $15 and all proceeds will go to the foundation.