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Alexa Bartell celebration of life draws hundreds to Arvada church

On a beautiful, sun-filled afternoon, more than 500 people gathered in an Arvada church to celebrate the life of Alexa Bartell, who died at age 20 when a stone was hurled through the windshield of her car.

People hugged and wept outside the Storyline Church before the service, and others did the same inside, crossing aisles to embrace and pause. A table in the church lobby was filled with framed photographs of Alexa, smiling in most. Photos included images of Alexa playfully flashing a peace sign; she often wore baseball caps, sometimes with the bill facing back. Dozens of colorful floral bouquets were inside the lobby and the church. Friends left written messages that were displayed.

The Rev. JT English, lead pastor, welcomed the gathering, which included many young adults — friends and former classmates of Alexa’s. English said people shouldn’t suppress or deny emotions they’re feeling, including anger and grief, and that it would also be acceptable to laugh and share joy during the service.

The service included a slideshow, a montage of Bartell’s life projected on a theater-size screen, showing photos of her birth, as a child, a teenager and young adult. There were hugs, kisses, group gatherings, parties, sporting events, vacations, amusement parks and magical sunsets. A few video clips were rolled in. Chuckles and laughs worked through the crowd as the videos played.

Jeremy Bartell, her eldest cousin, spoke to the gathering. He recalled that Alexa, as a child, referred to him as “Bubba.” The recollection prompted more laughs. Jeremy Bartell also recalled a meeting, when he traveled cross country to Colorado from Florida, when Alexa was a kindergartener and he was a young adult. “She gave me the biggest hug. It felt like it lasted forever. My heart just melted,” he said.

Alexa’s radiant smile was “90% sweetness and 10% mischievous,” Jeremy Bartell said. He described her as a confident, compassionate and caring person.

When Jeremy Bartell had children of his own and family gatherings were happening, his kids would ask: “Is Alexa going to be there?”

If the answer was no, it would be a brooding car ride to the gathering, he said. If the answer was yes, it was a party in the back seat. She spent time with them on their level. She invested in the relationship.”

Jeremy Bartell shared that he’s been troubled and angered by Alexa’s senseless death.

“Alexa would have been disappointed in me. I’ve carried some hatred in my heart,” he said.

Alexa had a tattoo on her arm, a Bible verse that included, “Love your enemies.”

“The way her life ended did not define who she was,” Jeremy Bartell said. “The way she lived did. We will not say goodbye; we will carry her spirit in our hearts forever.”

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