FARMINGTON, N.M. — The anguish of a mother compelled to deliver the eulogy at her own daughter's funeral was on display Friday as a community gathered to say farewell to an 11-year-old abducted earlier this week.
The Farmington Civic Center was filled to capacity — more than 3,000 people, one relative said from the stage — to hear stories about Ashlynne Mike and offer support to her family, which includes Ashlynne's mother, Pamela Foster, and her father, Gary Mike.
“How do I say goodbye to a part of my soul?” Foster said.
As Foster stood near a white casket topped with an arrangement of pink, purple, white and yellow flowers, among Ashlynne's favorite colors, she described her daughter as the perfect baby who grew into the perfect toddler then into a bright girl. She recalled Ashlynne as a 2-year-old who was a “dainty eater” and liked to dress in pink.
“Gary and I could not ask for a more wonderful daughter,” she said.
New Mexico's governor, Susana Martinez, took the podium to talk about Ashlynne’s academic achievements and musical abilities. When in the audience, Martinez at times wiped tears from her eyes, as did many others.
Ashlynne was an artist who exercised her creativity by playing complex pieces of music on the piano and xylophone, the governor said.
In a video played on walls on either side of the stage, mourners saw Ashlynne’s talent as she played Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy on the xylophone. Ashlynne dreamed of becoming a musician as well as a music teacher, Martinez said.
Before the governor ended her remarks, she shared a message to her 9-year-old brother, Ian Mike, who was kidnapped along with Ashlynne from a neighborhood in the San Juan Chapter of the Navajo Nation. He was released and then helped the investigation by providing information to law enforcement, including an identification of the suspect.
“Ian, thank you for being so brave for such a little boy,” Martinez said.
Ashlynne’s teachers and fellow students at Ojo Amarillo Elementary School in Fruitland, N.M., will miss her love for music, Principal Abena McNeely said.
“Ashlynne had this quiet elegance around her,” McNeely said.
The young girl's potential to achieve her dreams repeatedly was mentioned in the speeches made Friday, along with messages of hope for changes in the way kidnappings are reported and handled on Navajo Nation lands.
"There should be no delays when emergencies arise," Foster said.
Other relatives and community members have criticized the system since Ashlynne's death.
"It's time for the Navajo people to stand up and voice their concerns," Shawn Mike, one of Ashlynn's cousins, said in his goodbye to her.