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Tearful service held for South Kitsap woman killed in Haiti earthquake
An estimated 1,000 people crowded into a Lakewood church on Wednesday, paying tribute to a Port Orchard resident who lost her life during last week’s Haitian earthquake.
Molly Hightower was killed in a building that collapsed during an earthquake on Jan. 12. At the time, she was serving as a volunteer for Friends of the Orphans, an aid organization for orphaned and abandoned children.
Jordan Hightower, who was older than her sister by just 15 months, delivered a eulogy that left listeners wondering whether they should laugh or cry.
Many did both.
“Many of us think that a bad event in our life — a failed test, a lost job opportunity or a failed relationship — is the end of the world and the worst thing that could happen,” she said. “It would be easy to say the last week has been the end of the world for my family and so many of us.
“It isn’t the end of the world, but the beginning of Molly’s legacy,” she said. “It is the beginning of when people will be turning to God, and ask how they can help out others. It is the beginning of us asking why we are on this earth, and what we can do each day to live with intention and purpose.
“This week showed many people that in a blink of an eye or the flip of an underwater fault line, life can be taken from us in an instant.”
Jordan Hightower finished writing the eulogy on Tuesday, according to a post on her Twitter account.
At the beginning of the service she told the congregation that she had “searched Google to find out how a eulogy was supposed to look, but it wasn’t much help.”
Molly Hightower was born in 1987 in Pacific, and her family moved to Port Orchard when she was seven years old. While she has strong Port Orchard ties, the service was held at the St. John Bosco Catholic Church in Lakewood, where her great uncle serves as a priest.
Hightower’s uncle, Father Craig Hightower, is also a priest at Gonzaga University in Spokane.
He said Molly “had the light of Christ in her eyes that gave her the crown of righteousness. This light was bright, and is not diminished today.”
Jordan Hightower was respectful and affectionate, but a little less reverent.
“Molly was our princess,” she said. “If she knew she was getting a crown of righteousness, she’d be really psyched.”
As children, Jordan characterized her life with her sister as “sarcasm, insults, competition, tattling and clothes stealing.”
Later, she thanked Molly for her tendency to “annoy me, irritate me, tattle on me, love me, push me, confront me and inspire me.
“Molly lived her life dramatically and with flair,” she said, “from the time she was almost born in the car with a cord around her neck to her dying in the first earthquake in Haiti in 200 years. Sis, you lived in style.”
As the eulogy continued it became more emotional and intense.
“We know that God had a plan for Molly from the time she was created but for us her ‘happily ever after’ came way too soon,” Jordan Hightower said. “If there is one thing we can take away from the multitude of beauty and wonder that is my sister’s life is that we should ask ourselves what we are doing with each minute of each day. Because every day is a gift that cannot be guaranteed.
“Who are you helping? What kind of impact will you have, and most importantly, what are you waiting for? One person can make a difference, and my sister’s life shows that in spades.”
After the service, Craig Hightower said the family hoped to rebuild the structure in which Molly died as a tribute, but had no current plans for further action.
“Molly inspired a lot of people,” he said. “But they should get involved because they want to, because they are inspired to do something, not just because of Molly.”
In addition to friends and family, the service included about two dozen Jesuit priests from Oregon and Washington, who were acquainted with Molly and her family.
Additionally, the Hightowers gave free reign to the media, which was allowed to videotape and photograph the service with no restrictions.
“The media was very helpful in getting word about Molly out to the public,” said Mike Hightower, Molly’s father. “I am grateful for that, and they have been very considerate of our family. I just wish that it didn’t take this for people to learn about Molly.”