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The Love of Charlotte Ruby Felton Miller

Charlotte Ruby Felton Miller
Charlotte Ruby Felton Miller

The family of Charlotte Ruby Felton Miller, who jumped out a window, held a memorial service for her Thursday January 21, 2016 at Riverside Memorial Chapel in Manhattan.

The service was incredibly moving with beautiful performances by the LaGuardia High School Girls Chorus, beginning with a prolonged version of Leadbelly's "Bring Me A Little Water Sylvie," a rendition of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" by Bank Street Friends, a reading of Margaret Mead's short poem, "Remember Me," by Gerald Fierst, the service's excellent Civil Celebrant, and extremely touching comments by family members and her best friend.

The service was held in the chapel's huge and lovely triple-height chapel that was filled to overflowing.

Only after the service was over and I went downstairs to exit did I begin to realize how overflowing.

I ran into a cousin and he told me that there were three levels of attendees and they numbered over a thousand.

Only when I looked Charlotte's name up on the Internet two days later did I discover that not only where there three levels inside but a great many people waited in the frigid cold outside on the street.

Those attending were mostly of Charlotte's generation.  She was two weeks shy of her 16th birthday when she threw herself out a window.  Another cousin had e-mailed me about her death and mentioned that she had been suffering from depression for about two years.

It was not possible that she was depressed if one based that on the many very lovely photographs of her that were shown on a large monitor at the front of the chapel before and during the service.  Nor on the testimony of the many speakers who bravely fought back their inconsolable anguish and spoke with the greatest of love for Charlotte's spirit and zest.

I never met Charlotte nor her father, Barney, mother, Caitlyn, and younger sister, Cora.  I actually had waited with them and some of Charlotte's grandparents in a small room before the service began but I didn't know who they were other than Eliza Miller, her grandmother, who is one of my first cousins.  I naively thought it was a bit sad that there were not more people. 

We heard the girls' chorus rehearsing and finally were ushered in to the first few rows in the chapel and I then realized that the large chapel was pretty full and that the chorus was very large, perhaps 50.  I looked at the photographic show on the monitor and was struck by how very lovely she was and by how many pictures there were of her at all her young ages.  I guess I looked at them intently for about 20 minutes and then the service began and the Civil Celebrant, Mr. Fierst, introduced the chorus, which was led by Sara Mae Lagasca.  I didn't know the song they sang.  It began with foot-thomping and chest slapping and hand-clapping and then the heavenly harmonies whose words I didn't catch.  It was very, very beautiful and I would later in the service hear that Charlotte had a beautiful voice and was thinking of becoming an opera singer.  She had, in many of the pictures, that piquant and Da Vinci allure of Elizabeth Taylor of "National Velvet," and not just because Charlotte happened to love horses.

As I began to realize that two young men sitting in the front row on either side of my cousin, Eliza, were her other sons as they hugged her, I began to choke up.  At numerous times during the service, it was difficult for me to hold back tears and not be convulsed by emotions.

How could this sweet child jump out a window?

The service closed with the girls chorus singing a "Lullaby" and a pretty girl on the aisle in the first row turned around to throw an arm around another and that girl grabbed and held her hand as they sang.  Most the chorus in this song and the first sang with smiles. 

When I went to work the next day, I wanted to tell some of my co-workers how memorable and lovely the service was but had to stop because tears welled up as they do now as I type this inadequate remembrance of a very special moment in my life that has made me love life even more.  I recalled the memorial service I gave my mother and, strangely, this moved me almost more.  Life is very precious, even for strangers.  Its mysteries are wondrous because we care.

Carter B. Horsley