A memorial was held at UC Davis for Renne Lyra Morrow, 19, on Sunday. She died after being hit by a car in Davis on Saturday, Feb. 4.
Renne’s memorial featured music by the Cal Aggie Band, for which Renne played Sousaphone. Reverend Robert Fuesler of Atascadero United Methodist, which Renne’s family attends on the central coast, gave the message.
The bulk of the memorial came in the form of an open mic that allowed friends and family to share specific, personal memories of Renne Lyra Morrow. The depth of the stories would have you think Renne had been at UC Davis for several years. In actuality, she had only been in college for about a year-and-a-half.
But that year-and-a-half brought with it some very significant life changes. She switched her major several times before eventually committing herself to a life of music. That decision was the product of many long conversations with the band director.
She also went through a self-discovery process that led her to identify herself as transgender. (Some of Renne's pre-UC Davis friends and family referred to her by her given name, Brennan Morrow, while speaking at the memorial).
In death, Renne Lyra Morrow, who was registered as an organ donor, saved four lives. Reverend Fuesler said that her:
- Liver went to save a nine-year-old girl.
- Kidneys went to save the lives of two different men.
- Heart went to save the life of a 23-year old.
“Now did you notice that Renne’s life went to save both male and female?” said Pastor Fuesler. “And do you think it matters to any of them what gender Renne was? Or any of their families?”
Many people spoke at the memorial. Here are some pieces of what was said. (Out of respect to those in attendance, I did not approach speakers to confirm their names, so not all are listed here).
Reverend Robert Fuesler
“I had shared with Renne a few months back … and I was unresolved as to this transgender transition ... One of the words used to describe God is “transcendent,” which means, beyond human apprehension.
He elaborates on the prefix “trans” and relates his personal understanding of God to Renne’s life and death. He also touches on Renne’s organ donation. .
“Make the world a better place … I can’t remember any time I’ve known her that there wasn’t an effort toward making the world a little bit better. I think the final act was her organ donation. She saved lives. Four.”
“When I first met Renne in 2010, I said ‘Oh no, another Morrow.’ (Renne’s older brothers played in the Cal Aggie Band) … Renne replied: ‘I do not deny my Morrowness.’"
“Her comedic wit, her funny attitude, her way of sharing herself with others, came fundamentally from her family … I think the world could use a little more Morrowness.”
“[Renne] always played [music] with her full heart and channeled her energy into her horn movements. It was in Davis that she really found her identity and she forced everyone else to grow around here. I think she grew more in a year-and-a-half than I did in six. And she was never silent with her opinions … and she would have evidence to back her up … She’s an inspiration to me, to everyone she ever met, and to everyone in this room. Life is what you make of it, and I’m making mine for her.”
A friend played “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep,” on a Ukulele and then followed that up with this: “I went through the songs [Renne] listened to on the last day of her life on Facebook.” The friend then lifted up the Ukulele again and began playing Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face,” which was met by applause and laughter.
A student said he ran into Renne on his way from the library the day before she died. The two of them spoke for about three minutes and then they went their separate ways, never to see each other again. “She had an amazing spirit,” the speaker said.
A friend told a story of Renne coming to visit her during the recent Winter break. She explained that her mother was a conservative Christian and that she was unsure how things would go down with Renne being transgender. Renne came to visit and, sure enough, the conversation came up. Renne took on the conversation directly: “It was a real demonstration of character. It increased my respect for her.”
“Renne’s most recent New Year’s resolutions were 1) Love all people. 2) Do no harm. 3) Do good … We miss you so much, Renne. And I, for one, promise to keep your memory and mission alive by carrying out your resolutions this year and every year of my life. And I hope all of you will do the same, for Renne, for you, and for all of us.”
If you'd like to add your own memories or thoughts, feel free to do so in the comments below this article. Or if you'd like to write your own memorial, click here.