Lall memorial service urges hope amid 'horrendous loss'

About 250 people attended a public memorial service in Calgary Thursday to remember the four members of the Lall family who died in a murder-suicide last month.

About 250 people attended a public memorial service in Calgary Thursday to remember the four members of the Lall family who died in a murder-suicide last month.

Relatives opened the service to the public to help cope with the deaths that shook the city.

Pastor Miriam Möllering said the families wanted to honour the lives of their loved ones so that "together as a community, a city and family we can help one another find hope in the midst of horrendous loss and despair."

Police say Joshua Lall killed his wife, Alison; two of their daughters, Kristen, 5, and Rochelle, 3; and Amber Bowerman, a journalist renting the family's basement suite, before taking his own life May 27 in their northwest Calgary home.

Joshua Lall was found lying on the floor of a nursery, next to a crib holding his one-year-old daughter, Anna, who was unharmed.

An e-mail from Alison, whose maiden name was Fisher, to the family's babysitter hours before the deaths said that her husband, an architecture intern, had been stressed at work and had not been sleeping.

"I'm sure that most of you have come to realize that we are here today because of a medical condition," said family friend Dr. Katherine Kavanagh, who alluded to Joshua struggling with a potential mental illness, during the service at the Centre Street Church.

"However, unlike other medical problems like heart disease, diabetes, the majority of us probably do not know what the risk factors are, what the warning signs are, what we should tell our doctors, when and how to get some immediate help that we may need.

"If we could ask Joshua and Alison, I'm sure that they would tell you that they thought they were doing everything right. And that they did not know or understand the gravity of the situation. The vast majority of us would have done exactly the same thing that they did."

Girls remembered as sensitive, precocious

Dozens of photos where shown of the family hiking, skiing and celebrating birthdays; notes written by friends of the two girls were displayed on monitors.

Those gathered heard of sensitive Kristen and her love of soccer and of her precocious sister, Rochelle, who was always on the move.

"Families stick together in good times and when difficult times come. The way the Lall and Fisher families are journeying through this is a life lesson to all of us," Möllering said.

"The power of hope, faith, forgiveness, compassion and understanding will do more to bring healing to a family, a community and a nation than any other force on earth."

On behalf of the families, Möllering said they were "overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from the people of Calgary."

A memorial service was also held last week in Guelph, Ont., where Joshua and Alison Lall lived before moving to Calgary in 2002.

Their families are asking that memorial contributions be made to Parks Foundation Calgary, the Alberta Children's Hospital or McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., where Alison graduated in 1997. They're hoping to establish a scholarship to the school's occupational therapy program.

Bowerman's family is setting up a journalism scholarship in the writer's memory, with the help of the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association.

With files from the Canadian Press