RON AGOSTINI: Chandra may be gone, but never forgotten

May 29, 2002 

We gave up Chandra Ann Levy to the heavens on Tuesday. Forget her? Impossible.

Our personal compass, knocked askew by months of media babble, was corrected at Modesto Centre Plaza. In the end, it was all about two parents' daughter and a brother's sister. It was about grieving, resilience and, of course, memories.

Simply, it was about love unfiltered by outside forces, or as friend Marjorie White said, "love without bias or judgment."

For almost an hour and a half, we escaped police trying to save face, attorneys jockeying for position, and network anchors seeking cute leads and quick sound bites.

No, that room — the scene for Levy's moving and tasteful memorial service — became an island of peace, a haven for about 1,200. Although the world still peeked over our shoulders for a view, it didn't feel the vibe bouncing off family and friends.

That vibe was Levy herself. A most soulful sensation.

The photographs on display illustrated the life cycle itself — the already smiling baby, the kid on horseback clutching her hat, the family in full hug, and, bigger than the rest, the striking young woman awaiting her future.

Seeing her, we didn't respond to the anger, the reality of a blossoming life cut so short. About 2,400 miles away earlier Tuesday, her death officially was tabbed a homicide, something those of us in the real world figured out long ago.

But we stopped ourselves. We remembered the venue. More important, we remembered the richness of her 24-plus years.

Those of us lucky enough to know Levy were energized by her presence. A former sports clerk for The Bee, she eased many busy nights by taking numerous calls from correspondents at football and basketball games. She loved sports, although her vocation lay elsewhere. Still, she was a joy, one of those special people who walks into your life and, hopefully, doesn't leave for a while.

Levy was willful, a bit spoiled, giving, fun, compassionate, tough, loyal and void of evil. She knew what she wanted, and she always wanted chocolate. Fittingly, people attending the service dipped into a bowl of peanut butter cups as they exited.

Mike Vanden Bosch, another former Bee clerk, glowed Tuesday as he recalled his time with Levy. "She was eager to know people. That's the only way she knew how to live. You always knew when Chandra was in the room," he said, yet his manner said so much more than his words.

One by one, Levy's friends testified to her impact. Lisa Bracken spoke of how Levy showed her "how to be proud of what I believed in." Rabbi Paul Gordon referred to "the loss of a bright light, a bright soul. To us, then, let that good soul rest."

A word not heard during the service was "closure" and good for that. "Closure" is a media term — the Levys hate it, for good reason — a broad-brush cover-all for others' suffering.

Truth is, there was no closure here, nor was there intent on closure Tuesday. The Levys will live on, but their loss is eternal. Thankfully, there was no need to trivialize such sadness.

So it was more than a little touching when Adam Levy, Chandra's brother, rose to the moment: "She has not left us. She has just transformed herself into another level of energy."

Applause burst in a small but emotional wave as Adam Levy walked to his seat. His sentiment was intensely personal, appropriate, and in a way, uplifting, a line worth stowing away for safekeeping.

Let the record show that the Levy family stood tall Tuesday during their time of sorrow. As they filed out, "Turn, Turn, Turn," adapted from the Book of Ecclesiastes, was sung.

"To everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn, and a time to every purpose under heaven ."

Forget Chandra Levy? Impossible.

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