Community shows support at Hodges children’s funeral

By Michele Townsend

People say that death is a part of life, but people shouldn’t outlive their children! This is a heart-wrenching statement that far too many people have had to live through. The pain and emptiness that you feel at the loss of a child is so deep and overpowering, that it feels like you, yourself, will die from the pain.
It’s not something that can accurately be described, nor is it something that people want to know. When Kelvin, Julie and Lucas Hodges were taken from this world back in September, the devastation was so tremendous that it paralyzed our city. The pain could be felt everywhere that the story was told. I myself, am struggling just to write about it.
West Sacramento Council Member Quirina Orozco described the loss. “Three glorious lights in our community, had gone out.” The community of West Sacramento came together, and by the next night we were doing anything that we could think of to show our support, and condolences to Mai Sheng Vang (the children’s mother), and her family. The neighbors and community members gathered for a vigil at Southport Elementary. Orozco said “They held candles to the darkness of this city and for a moment, brought the light back”.
On Saturday, Oct. 7, 11-year-old Kelvin, 9-year-old Julie and 7-month-old Lucas Hodges were laid to rest. There was such an outpouring of support that two memorial services were held.
Saturday morning a service was held for close family and friends. The News Ledger is going to honor the requests of the family and not report on that service. However, Saturday afternoon, a second service was held for the community. An estimated 500-800 people were expected. Ribbons were handed out with the children’s initials on them. Every room available in River City Funeral Home was full with an additional section of seating set up outside for the overflow of people. Those people watched the service on large TV screens. The service was led by Pastor Micah Moreno, with special music sung by Jessica Moreno and Evelien Smothers.
In the program that was handed out, it says that Kelvin was a 5th grader who loved Transformers, Legos, and had a deep curiosity of sea life, especially sharks. It went on to mention his huge “bunny smile” (which was also referenced by speakers during the service), his cheerful personality and his warm devotion to his brother and sister. Principal Matt Ainsworth told a riddle that Kelvin had told him while sharing a story about him. He also said that he had told Kelvin that he “had the best smile in the yearbook.”
Julie was continually described as a sweet and loving socialite. In addition, it was reported that she “knew everybody,” and will be remembered for her infectious laugh, playfulness and curiosity. Principal Ainsworth told about a time when the kids were playing Dodgeball and Julie kept running in front of the ball. He said “Julie, the point of the game is to dodge the ball”. Julie replied that she “didn’t want any of her teammates to get out”. This was the kind of love that this young girl was full of.
Lucas was only 7 months old, but brought just as much joy and warmth to the family as the other children did. He was described as a content baby who rarely cried. He loved to play and make faces at his mommy, was just learning to crawl, and was just learning to say “mama”.
Orozco, a mom of four, spoke very eloquently when she said “Mai Sheng Vang will be able to do the impossible (to heal), because she has just lived through the unimaginable … Those moments when it is quiet, just know that with it carries our love and our support and our prayers to you. We will not forget. This is our community, we are your family.”
Mai Sheng got up, and in a very fragile voice thanked the community for their love, kindness and support. She said that she “never expected such a beautiful display of comfort and care. It will help her continue.”
She went on to thank the first responders who “tried everything to help her children,” and she said she knows that they “share her nightmares.” She apologized to them, and then to the community. Mai said that she “thinks about your children and their suffering, and the suffering of the community about her children, and she is sorry to have your kids have to see such a harsh reality while they are children.”
Washington Unified School District School Board Member Jackie Wong told Mai that “we share in your sadness.”
This is profoundly true. Mai said that she “thinks of Kelvin and his huge smile.” She “thinks of Julie and her social personality who loved everyone” and that she “thinks of Lucas, her happy baby whose giggles she can still hear.”
As teacher Marty Elliot said, “May peace come to you some day!”

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