By Sally Voth -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday's memorial service for slain Winchester Star reporter Sarah Libbey Greenhalgh was billed as a celebration of her life, and that is exactly what it was.
Eleven days after Greenhalgh, 48, was found dead in her burned-out Upperville home, the photojournalist was eulogized by her sister and several old friends who gathered with hundreds of mourners at Trinity Episcopal Church in the bucolic Fauquier County village.
Her death was quickly classified as a homicide, although the Fauquier County Sheriff's Office hasn't released a cause of death. Lt. John Hartman said Friday afternoon no one had yet been arrested in connection with Greenhalgh's killing.
Hartman has said several search warrants -- all sealed -- have been executed as part of the investigation, and the FBI was called in for assistance last week.
Speakers at Greenhalgh's service didn't shy away from mentioning her violent passing.
"It's a tragedy and a travesty that brings us together today," Trinity's rector, the Rev. Robert L. Banse Jr., said at the start of the service. "We come with emotions and feelings we can't even begin to fathom.
"As much as I love being in this place, I would much rather be somewhere else right now."
The sandstone and limestone church features high arches, exposed wooden beams and stained-glass windows. Its pews were filled to capacity early Friday afternoon.
Banse said he was sure many people sitting in those pews were wondering how someone could talk about a loving God in the face of what had happened to Greenhalgh.
"I will make a very real confession to you all today, I can't begin to put it all together, and I'm not going to go try to put it all together," he said. "I believe that God is a loving, caring, gracious God. Furthermore, I do not believe that God caused this to happen. In our tradition, we believe in something called free will."
Banse said he believed Greenhalgh was with her family and friends in the church.
"And, I truly believe she's always as close to you as every beat of your heart and every breath that you draw," he said.
Greenhalgh's sister, Kate Langton, said she imagined the photojournalist's friends and family members were struggling for answers as much as she was.
"I imagine that your hearts are as broken as mine," she said.
Langton said she welcomed their theories as to what had happened to her sister, and said she needed to talk about it.
"I'm dependent upon her other tribe, her reporting tribe -- you media people -- to keep on it," she said. "Because she would want you to do that."
And, Greenhalgh would be out digging for the story herself if she could, Langton said. Greenhalgh -- who her sister and her mother, Sara Lee Greenhalgh, had previously described as adventurous, intrepid, vivacious and a tenacious reporter -- will be remembered as "a heroine" by Langton.
Greenhalgh was 12 years younger than Langton, who last week said they'd grown very close in recent years. On Thursday, Langton visited her sister's home. In the church, she held up a hand towel she'd found in the charred ruins. Although Langton said it still smelled of smoke, the word "SAFARI" could clearly be seen on it.
Langton said the word came from a mixture of Swahili and Arabic and meant journey and travel. Greenhalgh traveled extensively to Africa -- starting at the age of 12 -- and took many photographs there. Some of those photos were part of a slideshow at a reception following her memorial.
"I understand from being here just a few days how this event has really impacted so many people in so many ways," Langton said.
She received a call from Greenhalgh six months ago in which her sister told her she'd come across a picture of herself as an infant being held by Langton. Langton said the night after Greenhalgh died, she was unable to sleep, and "I sang her a lullaby for a good portion of the night."
"Like a ship in a harbor, like a mother a child, like a light in the darkness, I will hold you a while," Langton recited. "We will rock on the water, I will cradle you deep and hold you while angels sing you to sleep."
Greenhalgh's longtime love of horses and horse racing were reflected in the words of two more speakers -- Great Meadow Foundation President Robert Banner and former professional polo player Charles Muldoon.
Banner said he'd known Greenhalgh for 25 years as she covered the horse circuit for numerous publications.
"It was her calling," he said. "It really was something that was more than a job for her. This is something that she was born to do. She was always there, probing, curious, a fiend for facts.
"It was just a joy to work with somebody that was that determined, that committed, and that was Sarah to the core. Her attitude was phenomenal."
Muldoon said he'd first met Greenhalgh when both were teenagers and she'd come to work for his family.
"I met her when she walked into the barn, the polo barn," he recalled. "When I looked up, there was a beautiful blond girl."
The three-years' older Greenhalgh had left him virtually speechless, but it was her laughter that Muldoon said he remembered most about that first meeting. He said she had a variety of laughs which each conveyed a different meaning.
"I'm sad that I will never hear that laugh again, but I'm grateful that she and that laugh was a part of our lives," a choked-up Muldoon said.