Hundreds of people packed into Saint Raphael Catholic Church in Goleta on Friday to say goodbye to Alexandra Tang.
The room was filled with family and friends, many wearing purple in the memory of a young woman taken away too soon.
Alexandra was just 24 when she was killed, allegedly stabbed to death by her boyfriend of about a year, Derek Pinski. She was visiting him at his mother’s house in Laguna Hills at the time, and Pinksi fled to Arizona but now faces murder charges in Orange County, according to authorities.
The tragedy hit the South Coast community hard, and people are struggling to make peace with what happened.
“How can we not let our hearts be troubled when we are beset by the horror of her gruesome death?” Father Lawrence Santos said.
“Life had been so good, and God had been so gracious to your family, until then,” Santos continued. “So how can you not let your hearts be troubled?”
Alexandra Tang grew up in Santa Barbara with her parents, Alexander – a local dentist – and Elizabeth, and her big sister Candice. She attended Bishop Garcia Diego High School, Santa Barbara City College and then UCSB, where she graduated with a psychology degree.
The Tangs have a large family and an even larger extended family, with relatives all over the world. It’s made even larger by their friends and community members, who filled every seat in the church Friday morning and then some.
Speaking before hundreds of familiar faces, Candice Tang said she vividly remembers the day her baby sister was born.
She was at her aunt’s house, eagerly awaiting the news. Her father wanted a son to carry on the family name, but Candice was secretly praying for a sister.
When she got the news, she literally jumped for joy, off every piece of her aunt’s furniture.
The 7-year age difference didn’t matter: “We were best friends from the start.”
When Candice married Josh Nyholt last November, Alexandra was her maid of honor. The speech Alexandra made at the wedding was beautiful, Candice said, and now she will never be able to return the favor.
Alexandra loved art and painting, and Salvador Dali prints still hang on her bedroom walls.
She was an athlete in school, going out for softball, tennis and basketball. Even though Alexandra was tiny, Candice said, she was a force to be reckoned with.
During college, Alexandra made life-long friends while working for the city of Santa Barbara and with her roommates, who as a group would always come up with the most creative Halloween costumes, Candice said.
The sisters’ last day together was spent doing simple things such as grocery shopping, eating sushi and finding silly YouTube videos.
“It may seem like mundane things, but with my sister by my side, it really didn’t matter what we did,” Candice said.
“She was my strength. Even though I was the older sister and was supposed to be taking care of her, she knew when I needed taking care of.”
Father Santos offered the family words of comfort, saying that life will never be the same, but they can continue to be a wonderful family, made larger by their friends and community.
Don’t let this tragedy take away the beauty of life, he urged them.
“Alex would love to sing – continue singing,” he said. “Keep singing the song of Alex.”
The family thanked everyone for their support, and asked that people donate to Domestic Violence Solutions of Santa Barbara in Alexandra’s name.
They also handed out purple wristbands at Friday’s memorial service, so they can be worn to honor her memory.