This update is both heartbreaking and uplifting.
On Saturday, May 16, Southwest Church in Indian Wells, California hosted a celebration of life for one-year-old Madalyn Payton Slater, whose father allegedly threw her off a cliff on May 6 after a series of violent and baffling events that included stabbing his pregnant estranged wife and a Good Samaritan who attempted to assist the baby after her father ran his car off the highway, overturning it in the process.
I don’t want to talk about the alleged murderer today, though. This post is for, and about, Madalyn.
Keeping social distancing recommendations and public safety in mind, Southwest Church held a drive-through memorial service for Madalyn, during which mourners and supporters were able to drive past a group of Madalyn’s family members to deliver flowers, cards, and messages of sympathy.
Madalyn’s grieving mother, Ashley Grome (Slater), was at the forefront of the family group seated near the parking lot, graciously accepting the visitors’ prayers and well wishes. The strength of this young woman is inspiring. Less than two weeks ago, she was attacked with a knife by the man she married two years ago and has likely been tormented by ever since, who then went on to murder the couple’s precious daughter; yet there she sat on Saturday, flanked by supportive family members, putting on a smile and a brave face to honor her little girl.
Car after car passed through the church parking lot to wave and call their condolences to the family as mask-wearing volunteers collected cards, balloons, and flowers for the family, who wore t-shirts printed with Madalyn’s photo.
Members of a biker group, CV Riders, came through as a unit to pay their respects, accompanied by an Indian Wells Sheriff’s deputy with flashing lights.
Madalyn’s maternal grandfather, Michael Grome, spoke with reporters on the day of her memorial.
“That day I got that call, it was tough,” he said of the events of May 6. When asked if he had anything he would say to Madalyn if he could, he immediately replied, “I love you. I am going to see her again, definitely.”
Pastor Tim Kuhl told a news station via video call, “There’s so much discouragement that can keep people away, but tonight, people showed up. We are proud and grateful, and our hearts go out to Ashley.”
The driver of one car became choked up with emotion as he told a reporter, “It’s just tragic. We used to live next door to them. We would never expect it, but we are all hurting right now. That’s why we came to pay our respects.”
Ashley herself wrote a statement to News Channel 3 that read, “Thank you for the support for not only me but Madalyn… Thank you for all the time and effort it has taken to put an event up this big to celebrate the life of Madalyn… and most importantly justice will be served for Madalyn.”
Michael Grome added, “Big thanks to the community and to Southwest Church. I am amazed at the support, the generosity that has come in… the love the community and everybody has shown not even knowing my granddaughter, it’s touching.”
Michael is grateful for the last memory he has of Madalyn, that of spending time with her the night before her death. “I’m just glad that I had that last opportunity with her that night, to hold her and to play with her.”
Rest in peace, Madalyn.
Sources: The Desert Sun, KESQ News Channel 3