WAYLAND, Mass. A pink bow adorned almost every house and business in Wayland, commemorating the young woman whose life was taken too soon.
At an overflowing memorial service Saturday, friends and family described the joy and love with which 18-year-old Lauren Astley lived her life. The Wayland High School grad was planning to attend Elon University in North Carolina this fall. She loved fashion and music.
The service was punctuated with music from Astley’s a cappella group The Muses, recordings of Astley singing and a performance of a lullaby her father wrote called “Nuzzling the Night.”
“The way she died is so incongruous with the way she lived her life,” said her uncle, Bruce Paulson. Astley’s body was found in a marsh near the Sudbury town line, with her throat slashed. Her ex-boyfriend, 18-year-old Nathaniel Fujita, has pleaded not guilty to her murder.
But, Paulson remarked on how much love and support the community has shown in the face of Astley’s death.
“I implore you to keep it up,” he told the congregation. “How do we face what happened? How do we face human darkness? … We need to be together, together with courage, because the sun will come up tomorrow,” he said, referencing the popular song Astley sang in a production of “Annie.”
Astley was an only child, but four of her friends said she adopted them as her sisters.
Her friend, Hanna Blahut, said she and Astley were like twins.
“I will always remember the wonderful energy she put into everything she did,” Blahut said.
Another, Genevieve Flynn, remarked that she learned through Astley’s death to “live every moment to the fullest just as Lauren did.”
Lauren’s father, Malcom Astley, said his daughter was driven to fix the world, spending time in New Orleans doing volunteer work.
He spoke of the importance of laughter and being able to let go of the things and people we love, just as his daughter did.
“May we celebrate and savor such capacity in her and nurture such capacity in our children,” he said.
People who didn’t even know the Astleys came to the service. Several said they felt touched by the story of her death and wanted to show their support for the family.
Nikki Davis was among them.
“There’s a lesson here for boys in processing their emotions, in processing their feelings and learning how to communicate and dialogue.” Davis also said one of her goals is to teach young adults how to have healthy relationships.
“I’m hoping that more people are as moved as I am to remedy the communication gap between boys and girls and to remedy the way in which boys are not taught to process their feelings and their rage,” Davis added.
Astley’s family set up a memorial fund in her name, in order to promote education programs that focus on healthy teen relationships, the arts and community service.