WEST LINN , Ore. -- They gathered to remember a life cut too short, asking why and finding comfort through community.
Nearly 2,000 people filled Southlake Foursquare Church for a Celebration of Life to honor Madison Maddi Higgins, 17, who died Monday after a car crash in West Linn Sunday.
The church pews were filled with a checkerboard of color, as dozens of Higgins' teammates and on-field competitors paid tribute to the popular and talented softball player by wearing their team jerseys to the ceremony.
At the request of Maddi's father Mike, who coaches the Canby High School softball team, all those who had a softball connection to his daughter stood up and shook the walls with five claps for Maddi, who wore #5 on her jersey.
Fighting through tears as she spoke, and comforted on each side by her father and Maddi's father, Karly Leveque wondered aloud how to make sense of the loss, but vowed to learn from Maddi's passion for life by going on to live her own life to the fullest and be more like Maddi.
I expected to be at her wedding, not her memorial, said Higgins' first church minister.
Higgins' World History teacher spoke of Maddi's inspiring dedication and passion, and held up two 'care packages' Maddi made for needy third-world children after a class field trip to Medical Teams International. He said he'd keep those care packages and share them with his students as an inspiration for as long as he remained a teacher.
Kip Jacob, Pastor at Southlake, reflected on the emotional tributes by friends and family members, and encouraged those in attendance not to be afraid to ask the question of why. Then he swept his hand toward the overflow crowd, evidence of the importance of relationships over accomplishments in life.
Near the close of the service, the lead pall bearer announced the news that Higgins had just been named 1st-team State All-Star at center field, meaning that Maddi Higgins truly was now an angel in the outfield.
Maddi's father Mike Higgins, speaking last among the tributes, shared his struggle to make sense of the loss of his daughter. Reflecting on the many lives she had touched, he said: She was not taken from us, she was given to us.
The memorial took place at 2:05 p.m., in honor of Higgins' softball jersey number. She was a three-year varsity starter at West Linn High and was being actively recruited by schools.
One of her dreams was to play college softball, said family friend Brian Berger. She proudly wore #5 as her jersey number since she began playing.
Berger said Higgins had hoped to combine her education, her love of softball and new-found love of surfing one day.
The family said Monday that they would donate Higgins' organs.
As an organ donor, her final gift to the world was the donation of her heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and beautiful brown eyes, Berger said.
Higgins was a junior at West Linn High School. Hayden Soyk, the driver of the car in the crash, was also killed. He graduated from West Linn in 2013.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation. Witnesses told deputies that it looked like the car was speeding before it crashed.