August 31, 2005 - Music played and tears were shed as more than 100 students filled the Catalina Foothills High School auditorium Aug. 26 to remember a friend and fellow student, Marcia Kristan Parseghian, who died earlier this month.
Parseghian died a few months shy of her 17 birthday on Aug. 6, after a long and difficult battle with a rare inherited disorder, Niemann-Pick Type C disease. The disease has claimed the lives of two other Parseghian children, Marcia's brother Michael and sister Christa.
Students at the high school are finding it a little bit harder to start the school year without Marcia and her big brown eyes and even bigger heart.
That is why the student council organized the open mic event, which gave students the chance to remember Marcia and honor her life.
"You're still here every day, because I know you by heart" were lyrics that were sung as a video monitor showed pictures and special moments from Marcia's life.
There were snapshots and video recordings of a healthy Marcia on Christmas Eve in
1992 singing and dancing in her pajamas in front of a Christmas tree, and a feeble, yet happy, Marcia in ballet class in a wheelchair, still twirling and enjoying the music with a little help from her friends.
That was what the open mic night was all about: honoring Marcia, a true friend, said Molly Siegel, student council member and senior.
"Marcia was an inspiration to all of us," Siegel said.
Wearing a button that read "I am loved by Marcia," Siegel introduced the people performing for the friend lost much too soon.
Students lip synched songs special to Marcia, and videos were shown of Marcia at
Orange Grove Middle School, in class, surrounded by her friends. James played the cello and the duo Watching Birds played guitar and piano, performing an original song for Marcia.
"She was my favorite girl," the lyrics went, and she was for many in the audience.
As the jazz band performed and a drum beat pulsed, the memory of Marcia was honored and celebrated. Tears flowed and laughs followed.
Mike Parseghian, Marcia's father, took long hugs and handshakes from students after the two-hour session came to a close.
It is still difficult to watch the video of his daughter dancing and singing before the disease took hold. Watching the happy times visibly shook him, but he said he gets strength from Marcia's friends.
"These kids have been through a lot together," Mike Parseghian said. "I have always gotten strength from them."
It may be difficult to watch the videos now, but it will be sweet again, he said.
For Perri Blaser, 17, who starred in one of the home videos with Marcia, it was hard to watch her on the screen and know that she is gone.
Blaser and Marcia were best friends since before kindergarten, she said.
Countless memories of staying up late, braiding each others hair and eating huge jars of pickles are what Blaser has from her dear friend.
With so many memories, it is hard to think of them all, she said.
Foothills students are creating a mosaic bench to honor Marcia. It will be placed outside the life skills building, Siegel said.
The Parseghian family created the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation, a nonprofit organization funding research projects to find a treatment and cure for Niemann-Pick Type C disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. So far, the foundation has raised more than $22 million.