The sadness that enveloped White Rock Baptist Church Wednesday evening, where a celebration of life for eight-year-old Teagan Batstone was held, was profound.
Tears flowed freely among the 200-plus attendees, as those who knew the youngster recalled "a hugger" who was quick to share her joy and excitement with those around her.
"She would run into the room, run across the room and almost knock me over… then in a flash she was gone," retired pastor Fay Puddicombe told the crowd, remembering one of Teagan's "amazing" hugs.
The youngster, who attended Grade 3 at Rosemary Heights Elementary in South Surrey, was found deceased Dec. 10 in the trunk of a car. Her mother, Lisa Batstone, is charged with second-degree murder in connection with her death.
And while senior pastor Ellis André acknowledged the tragic circumstances of Teagan's death only deepened the sadness of those who had gathered to say goodbye – including Teagan's maternal grandfather and other family members – he encouraged mourners to focus "on the enriching contributions that she has made to our lives."
"Although she's not here with us today, her life will continue to speak to us in months and years to come, perhaps in more profound ways than we can know," he said.
André described Teagan as a girl with an "infectious excitement" that everyone could sense. It could be seen in the photos of Teagan framed for display during the service, and in those compiled for a slideshow that flashed across the front of the sanctuary. The images depicted a girl smiling with friends, reading a book, playing in a pool – doing everything little girls are expected to do.
"She lit up our hearts with her smile, her love, her hugs," André said. "Not too many people hug me, but I got a hug from Teagan."
The senior pastor also encouraged those who came out to reserve making any judgments on what happened to Teagan.
"Only God knows everything," he said.
Children at the service, including some of Teagan's classmates, were offered coloured pencils and paper to write messages to her family. As the evening wrapped up, they placed them one by one in front of a photo of their friend.
André told Peace Arch News after the service that the tragedy has been the most difficult thing that he has dealt with in his more than 40 years of ministry, the last 11 of which he has spent at White Rock Baptist Church.
"Over the years, you deal with a lot of stuff," André said.
"This is far and away the worst… a nightmare."
The church will continue to care for Lisa Batstone, he said.
"She's part of our church family. Probably the last email that I sent her was telling her we loved her and Teagan."
Lisa Batstone appeared in Surrey Provincial Court the next morning, where a full "fitness assessment" was ordered.
A funeral for Teagan is to take place in Ottawa Saturday.