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Music soothes their grieving souls

Ana's father to release tribute album

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Jimmy Greene will always remember his daughter's beautiful life.

The former Winnipegger's six-year-old daughter, Ana Grace Marquez-Greene, was among the 20 children shot and killed by gunman Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., one year ago.

To honour Ana's memory, Greene, a jazz saxophonist who taught music at the University of Manitoba between 2009 and 2012, is producing a tribute album, Beautiful Life, slated for a 2014 release.

Greene returned to Winnipeg at the end of September with his wife, Nelba Marquez-Greene, and their 10-year-old son, Isaiah, who survived the shooting, to record three songs on the album with a choir of his children's friends and classmates at Linden Christian School.

"There was lots of joy as we sang about Ana and knowing that where she is -- she's in heaven with God -- there was lots of joy with that, but there were also tears as we were singing about her and her love of music and dance and joy," said family friend Karen Schroeder, who, as a teacher at Linden Christian School, was present for the recording session.

Schroeder, her husband, Chris, and their four children became fast friends with the M°rquez-Greenes after meeting at Whyte Ridge Baptist Church in 2009. The Marquez-Greenes still have a difficult time believing their vivacious daughter isn't going to come bounding through their front door, but are making a conscious effort to live each day to the fullest, she said.

"It was a choice from Day 1... that they were going to continue to love God, love people, love each other," Schroeder said.

"It's still incredibly difficult. Their pain is deep and raw. I imagine in 10 years it's still going to be a choice because they're going to be missing her every single day. They don't have their tomorrows with her, they only have yesterday.

"Music is huge part of their journey and it's music that honours God and it's music that honours Ana and it's music that brings them hope and comfort."

Ana, like her father, loved music, Schroeder said.

The last time Ana sung in a choir was in Winnipeg in June 2012 with her classmates the month before the family left for Newtown. They were originally from Connecticut and wanted to be closer to their families.

"That was important to them, to come back to Winnipeg and for Winnipeg to be a part of the healing journey and part of the recording," Schroeder said.

Winnipeg was Ana's home. The young girl lived half her life in the city.

Schroeder's daughter Abby, seven, was close to Ana. Ana's first sleepover was at Schroeder's house.

"I walked into the room and Ana and Abby were in the bed and Ana was reading to Abby," Schroeder said, unsure of whether the girls had even started kindergarten at that point. "She was just reading books to Abby and they were cuddled in bed. Ana was just such a strong reader."

Schroeder took Ana and Isaiah tobogganing for the first time,

"I took them to my parents' farm and we went sledding," said Schroeder, who grew up just outside of the city. "We could not get Ana off the hill. I was in the van warming up and the van was running and I'm ready to go and Ana was still wanting to go down the hill. It's a very special memory of Winnipeg winters."

For months after Ana died, Greene found picking up his saxophone too painful, Schroeder said. It was Ana's legacy that inspired him to play on. "Music earmarks our significant events in life," she said.

Jimmy Greene is again teaching music at Western Connecticut State University. Nelba, a family and marriage therapist, works for Sandy Hook Promise, which looks into ways to protect children, including gun-control regulations, Schroeder said.

"It's not going to be over in six months. It's not going to be over in a year. This is what their life is going to be like and they're choosing to celebrate (Ana's) life. They desire so deeply for this tragedy to have good come out of it," Schroeder said.

Schroeder said the family has set up the Ana Grace M°rquez-Greene Memorial Bursary at the University of Winnipeg and Ana's Bursary fund at Linden Christian School.

The Marquez-Greenes are posting video of Ana and her classmates singing He Knows My Name in June 2012 on the Remembering Ana Grace Marquez-Greene Facebook page today.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 14, 2013 A4

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