There were tears, hugs and laughter as approximately 250 people gathered at the University of Alberta campus to remember slain nursing student Rachael Longridge.
Friends, classmates and faculty members gathered outside the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy to light candles and share stories about the 21-year-old.
Longridge died Friday at her house in the Sherbrooke neighbourhood of Edmonton. Her mother, Christine Longridge, was taken into custody and faces charges of second degree murder and possession of an offensive weapon. Family and friends said Christine Longridge suffered from mental health issues and had been struggling for many years.
But Wednesday was about remembering the vivacious young woman, who friends say had an infectious personality and was quick to make new friends.
“There are just so many people that she loved and were loved by her. She touched so many people, not only in the nursing community, and here at the university, but beyond,” said close friend Dakota Bergem.
Close friend Danielle Bourque said the vigil is a step towards closure.
Several of Longridge’s former patients also attended the event, saying they were shocked and overcome when they heard the news about her death.
Shannon Sharon said Longridge was her home care nurse for the last couple months.
“She always used to come in with the biggest smile on her face. I wish I could have got to know her better,” Sharon said.
“She’s very gentle. She never let anything bother her. She was always very conscious of what she did.”
Chad Kidner, who was also a patient of Longridge’s, said the loss runs deep.
“I believe the nursing community lost a great person to be a nurse. She was a very kind, caring person. She was a very gentle person,” he said.
Childhood friends Marlee Butti and Rachel Clarke injected some humour into the otherwise emotional vigil, sharing funny stories about Longridge from their youth.
“When you think of her, you don’t want to get sad. You don’t want to cry. When you think of her, you get so happy,” Butti said.
“She just has this humour and this laugh that I’ll always remember. This contagious laugh – as soon as she was laughing – her smile just brightened every situation,” Clarke said.
The pair, who wore t-shirts bearing Longridge’s face, also urge those who are dealing with mental health issues to speak out.
They came bearing a message from Rachael’s brother Michael – who is now facing a future without his sister, his mother in custody and a father who passed away from cancer last year.
“The main thing he wanted for tonight was to let everybody know that his mom loves him and loves Rachael and wanted everyone to know this is nothing but a mental health issue,” Butti said.
At the end of the vigil, close friends released balloons into the night sky.
“Thank you Rachael for helping us become the people we are today. We love you to the moon and the stars and back again. Rest easy my friend. We love you,” said Bergem.