When Jimmy Holleran climbed the stage at his daughter’s memorial service, he had a speech prepared.
When he looked at the crowd gathered in Irvine Auditorium, he decided to abandon it.
“It’s just not what I feel,” he said. “What I feel now is you guys need each other.”
Over a hundred people gathered Sunday night to remember College freshman and track team member Madison Holleran, who committed suicide on Jan. 17. As friends and family shared memories of Holleran, they also began to work through the questions left after her death.
“I realize in situations like this, things aren’t always black and white. They don’t always have answers,” said College sophomore Taylor Hennig, a former teammate of Holleran’s. Depression, she added, is more prevalent than people realize, and seeking help is anything but a sign of weakness.
“I go to therapy every day,” Jimmy Holleran said. After his daughter’s death, people from around the country wrote letters sharing their experiences with depression and with their children’s struggles. He and his family started the Madison Holleran Foundation, aimed to prevent suicide and to “help just one person who’s really struggling make that call.”
Jimmy Holleran recalled walking a lap around his snow-covered backyard in the shape of the dirt circle Madison pounded into the yard by running. He looked down at it and saw a halo — and went to the school soccer field to make another. “I’m just spiritual,” he said.
University Chaplain Chaz Howard began his address urging people to confront their feelings head-on. “If it’s acknowledged, and we can share it, we’ll move into the life we want to enjoy,” he said.
Holleran, her friends said, was not only an impressive athlete, but a reliable friend who loved to laugh. Hennig knew she and Holleran would be friends, she said, when Holleran accidentally gave Hennig her home number to text. “That’s something I’d do,” she said.
After the ceremonies in Irvine concluded, the group took a lap around the track at Franklin Field in the snow, holding candles.
“Mr. Holleran,” Howard said, “I think with this last lap we made one more halo for your daughter.”