In the emotional years since the murder of Yeardley Love in May 2010, her mother, Sharon, and older sister, Lexie, have had one thing to distract them from from their sadness, a "driving force," as Lexie called it, that has kept them afloat when little else could.
On Sunday, that driving force — the Yeardley Love Field at the shared alma mater of the two sisters and their mother, Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson — will be dedicated at a Sept. 9 ceremony expected to include hundreds of family members, friends and current students.
"Our good friends were our lifeboat," Sharon Love said this week, recalling the family's journey.
"Good friends, and total strangers," Sharon Love said. "We've gotten so much support from so many, both emotionally and financially. That's all I felt kept us afloat. It still does."
Yeardley Reynolds Love was days from graduation at University of Virginia when she was found dead in her apartment near campus at age 22. George Huguely V, now 24, was convicted earlier this year of second-degree murder in her death and last week he was sentenced to 23 years in prison.
After enduring the trial and media frenzy around it, Sharon and Lexie declined to discuss the sentencing of Huguely, referring simply to a family statement that said, in part, "We are relieved to put this chapter behind us. … We would like to thank everyone for showing us such kindness during the most difficult time of our lives."
They said their focus is now on Yeardley Love Field, the first of many works they expect to emerge from the One Love Foundation, an organization the family formed in the wake of her death. Since the campaign began, Yeardley's family has used it as a "mental booster," said Lexie Love, Yeardley's older sister, who was 25 at the time of the incident.
"We'd have our good days, and bad days," she said. "If we were upset, it would be a distraction, a positive distraction for us. It kept us busy."
'She's always with them'
On Monday afternoon, that positive idea became a reality for Lexie, who got her first look at the $1.2 million turf field built both out of, and for, Love.
"All the hard work that everybody has put in throughout the past two years has really made a huge impression on me," she said.
"To actually see it with my own eyes, it's unbelievable," she said. "It made us realize Yeardley must have been loved by so many."
Sharon Love, of Cockeysville, who had seen the field twice before, was still struck Monday as she took in just how big it is. The field, lined in white, light blue and an electric blue — Yeardley's class colors — was aesthetically just how Yeardley would have wanted it, she said.
But she also noted that the school's old grass field, however unpredictably it may have made a lacrosse or field hockey ball bounce, might have been more Yeardley's style.
"Ironically, her knees always bothered her on turf fields," Sharon said. "She liked playing on grass."
If that's true, NDP's current crop of student-athletes are taking the turf much better than its namesake would have.
Mary Bartel, Yeardley's lacrosse coach and chair of the physical education department, said that after the first day of practice on the field, the fall athletes simply laid at the center of the field on the NDP logo and soaked in their new field.
Sharon Love said the field will bring up the school's athletic programs, something Lexie is glad her sister and family could assist.
"Having Yeardley be a part of it, it's extra special," she said. "I hope that it is for all the girls who play on it too. She's always with them out there."
Sharon Robinson, who is Yeardley's and Lexie's cousin and has served as the family's spokeswoman over the past two years, said that almost immediately after Yeardley's death, donations began pouring in to the One Love Foundation. Everyone, she said, wanted to know what they could do to help.