Saying one last goodbye

When she moved to Oak Harbor, Elaine Sepulveda told family members she would have everyone in town saying her signature phrase “cool beans” by the year’s end.

Elaine’s goal came several hundred people closer, as many community members and students held little bags of beans, tied together with ribbons which read, “Cool beans,” during her memorial service on Thursday at the Oak Harbor High School.

“A lot of you who knew our Elaine ­— you would have heard her saying this phrase,” said Elaine’s mother, Mary Jimenez. “She said it all the time and always put a smile on our faces when she said it.”

Mary said Elaine’s younger sisters Maegan Jimenez, 7, and Alyssa Jimenez, 4, started using it because they always heard their sister say it.

She asked that when people hear that phrase to please think of Elaine.

Since Elaine’s body was found Jan. 14, buried in an Oak Harbor backyard, high school students say they have thought of little else.

Brianna Smith, 16, a junior, said she and Elaine rode the bus a couple of times together. She said it is moving to see how many high school students have taken Elaine’s death so personally.

“I hear a lot of people talking about her, even if they didn’t know her. It makes me sad to see my friends so sad,” she said. “It makes me really sad for her family.”

During the memorial, students and community members grieved, comforted one another and expressed their condolences to Elaine’s family.

“May God be with you through your struggle. She will always be remembered and loved dearly,” one student wrote on poster paper laid out for guests to write messages to Elaine and her family.

Another student wrote, “May angels sing for you. Rest peacefully with our love and God’s love in your spirit.”

Elaine’s sister Maegan wrote, “I miss you, Mandi,” and then drew a picture of a guitar for her sister who loved music.

Pastor Dave Veach, from Oak Harbor’s Living Word Fellowship, led the memorial.

“We’re here to celebrate the life of a daughter, a sister, friend, classmate,” he said.

In a slide show of her life, Elaine grew up before memorial guests, going from baby to teen as Elton John sang, “We’ll have our fill of tears and our share of sighs, but my only prayer is that you realize, you will always be beautiful in my eyes.”

Some of those who knew Elaine from school spoke on how she had affected their lives. After, Elaine’s mother and oldest sister, Angela Sepulveda, spoke.

“She didn’t leave us alone,” Angela said. “Her spirit is always with us ... I just wanted everyone to remember that we’re not saying goodbye. We’re saying ‘see ya later.’ See ya later, Mandi.”

Mary explained for all those who didn’t know why Angela referred to Elaine as Mandi.

“Many of you know her as Elaine. Our Family called her Mandi,” she said, a name which is taken from Elaine’s middle name Amanda.

Mary described Elaine as a caring person who was always ready with a hug, a smile or an ear for those who needed it. Mary also showed a few items which were very dear to Elaine, such as her Care Bear and a blanket she’d had since she was 3-years-old.

“She slept with it every night,” Mary said. “I remember going into her room and her feet sticking out from the bottom of this blanket.”

In closing, Mary asked the community members to watch over their children vigilantly.

“Watch over them and guide them and pray for them,” she said, crying. “And prevent this from happening to another child.”

She thanked the community for its support and prayers throughout the past few months.

“We ask that you remember our daughter with a smile, her big heart and ‘cool beans,’” she said.

As the memorial ended, Angela gathered up her two little sisters in her arms and kissed them both on their heads.

“Now we have to stick strong and be good sisters,” she said. “We’ve got to stick together. We’re all we’ve got now.”

Then they joined their family as they accepted hugs and words from a sympathetic community.

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